When Air Seychelles partnered with Sabre in 2014 for a new customer service system, many team members wanted to help. After all, very few places in the world inspire a vision of paradise on earth as the Seychelles! Air Seychelles was excited about the prospect of upgrading to new capabilities, in line with its aspirations. The set was staged for a cutover in paradise.
Air Seychelles: The economic driver for a country
The economic lifeblood of the Seychelles, which consists of approximately 115 islands (many of them uninhabited), flows largely through Air Seychelles. Tourism is the No. 1 driver of the Seychelles economy, followed by agriculture.
The airline describes itself as “a boutique island carrier offering Indian Ocean access for its partner airlines.” The future appears to belong to the airline, as it’s received a prestigious four-star rating from Skytrax. It’s also been recognized for Leading Airline, Leading Cabin Crew, Leading Business Class and Leading Economy Class in the Indian Ocean among the 2016 World Travel Awards.
“Our goal is to be a sustainable, profitable, high-quality airline,” said Air Seychelles Chief Executive Officer Roy Kinnear. “Air Seychelles seeks to reflect the best of Creole hospitality, culture and values by treating our guests with unique Creole warmth.”
Air Seychelles offers international flights to Abu Dhabi, Antananarivo, Beijing, Johannesburg, Mauritius, Mumbai and Paris, and the carrier operates daily scheduled domestic flights to Praslin and charter services throughout the Seychelles archipelago.
To enhance and improve its ability to serve its customers, Air Seychelles, in 2012, became a strategic partner of Etihad Airways, an arrangement that affords Air Seychelles customers direct access to Etihad Airways Partner’s extensive global network of destinations. This greatly extends the Air Seychelles scope and range around the world.
Keeping up its end of the equation has entailed considerable upgrading of Air Seychelles systems, including a customer service system that has now been updated to the best and latest technology.
The Big Switch
Recently, Air Seychelles partnered with Sabre to upgrade its reservations and departure-control systems. The implementation of SabreSonic Customer Sales & Service and SabreSonic Web enables Air Seychelles to vastly enhance its guest experience and revenue, as well as its overall operating efficiency.
The solutions also enable the airline to exploit new revenue streams through the sale of ancillaries, a reduction of passenger check-in time, an increase in online sales, as well as the use of self-service and automation. It also enhances connectivity with partner airlines through codeshare and interline agreements.
Such an endeavor is significant, as both companies embarked on a journey to change systems at the very heart of the airline.
Teamwork makes the dream work
The Air Seychelles team demonstrated its passion and enthusiasm for both airline and country. The passion was critical in compensating for the lean nature of the team. Staff and executives alike pitched in to ensure the success of the project, and the order givers were also, in many cases, the actual doers.
Success wouldn’t have been possible without the “all-in” Air Seychelles approach, from the CEO to the frontline team. Moreover, project risks were constantly monitored and addressed by the small, tight-knit team.
“With a close team, working many years together, each wearing many hats, we knew not only our own areas very well but that of our teammates also,” said Air Seychelles Sabre Project Director Alan Renaud, a 12-year veteran with the company. “We had a deep understanding of the business and the company culture.”
A significant contributor to the ultimate success of the cutover was Etihad Airways. Etihad pitched in to support its partner airline, as a team of Etihad experts worked alongside Air Seychelles to ensure that the cutover was minimally disruptive.
Key takeaways from the cutover in paradise
Air Seychelles CEO Kinnear offered his primary tips for successfully achieving a SabreSonic cutover in paradise.In an all-staff message, he alerted the team to prepare for the cutover.
“Whilst our preparation work has been carried out to the highest degree, we all need to remain vigilant and aware that unexpected items may, and probably will occur,” he said to the airline’s employees.
“We need to remain composed, calm and bear in mind that our full focus should remain on providing a smooth guest experience throughout the transition whilst we manage through the cutover behind the scenes. I believe in each one of you and us as a team and am confident that together we will deliver this project successfully.”
Kinnear also recommended concentrating on what is important to guests, and remember that back-office functions don’t have to be perfect at cutover. They will fall into place quickly. Measurement is critical, but the No. 1 objective is to always cherish guests, because they don’t know or care about the stress of the cutover, and they are simply trying to enjoy their vacation.
And when it came time to ensure all employees were armed with the necessary skills to run the new technology, Kinnear had a philosophy that worked. “Train, train again, check and then refresh the training,” he said.
The bottom line, of course, is that the guests always come first. This is a reflection of how important Air Seychelles is to the nation because it is an Air Seychelles tenet that visitors enter a little bit of paradise the moment they climb onboard.
An aside on the Seychelles
Approximately 90 percent of the Seychelles total population of around 90,000 lives on the main island, Mahé, where the capital city Victoria is located. On the island of Praslin are another 6,500 inhabitants. Much smaller, the third most populated island is La Digue, which does not have an airport and is accessible only by sea.
Together, the three islands represent the cultural and economic hub of the Seychelles, and are home not only to some of the world’s most stunningly beautiful beaches but also serve as a natural habitat for exotic wildlife and vegetation.
Among the most beautiful island destinations in the world, the Republic of Seychelles has played host to some of the world’s most famous people, who are drawn to its enticing beaches and coves. In the 1970s, the Seychelles evolved to become “the place to be seen,” a figurative playground for the rich and famous, from film stars to other members of the international jet set.
As a tourist destination, the Seychelles will forever intrigue.
This article was adapted from Ascend magazine.