In December 1971, only five months after the opening of Seychelles’ International Airport, a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) VC10, then the flagship aircraft of their fleet, delivered me safely to my first footstep on Seychelles soil. It had been a long flight, more cramped than in current larger aircraft, and necessitated a refuelling stopover in Nairobi.
During the 1970s I made further visits to Seychelles on BOAC’s VC10s, which sometimes added Rome to the stopover points. I also used other airlines, notably Egyptair and Ethiopian Airlines, permitting various stopovers in the Middle East and East Africa. When I resumed annual visits to Seychelles in the 1990s, however, I took advantage of the national carrier, Air Seychelles, to ferry me back and forth on direct flights from London Gatwick or Heathrow. When this service stopped, and British Airways (the new incarnation of BOAC) had also ceased its direct flights in 2004, there was little option but to use airlines with hubs in the Middle East – Emirates, Qatar and Etihad. With these airlines it was usually possible to plan for connections in Dubai, Doha or Abu Dhabi that allowed around two hours in the hub airport, which I began to value as an opportunity to break the flight with some good leg exercise before boarding the flight to Seychelles. The downside was that the Seychelles leg usually left the Middle East airport around 2 am, with breakfast offered about an hour later, and arrived in Seychelles soon after dawn after a seriously disrupted night.
I therefore welcomed the opportunity to try British Airways’ new service, that started in March 2018, offering a direct flight from London Heathrow. This takes just under 10 hours in a new Boeing 787 “Dreamliner”. This aircraft has many features designed to improve flight efficiency and economy, and also the internal environment and passenger comfort. However, I did not find almost 10 hours in an economy seat conducive to sleep and I arrived in Seychelles feeling as though I had had another seriously disrupted night!
But hey, I was in Seychelles and there is no getting away from the fact that Seychelles is a long way from London, and the new British Airways service offers another option for travel selection, albeit one that does not offer the possibility of decent mid-journey exercise.