Air­line re­view

Busi­ness Class from Abu Dhabi to Mahé with Air Sey­chelles

Destination of the World News - - CONTENTS - Air Sey­chelles of­fers in­ter­na­tional flights to Abu Dhabi, An­tana­narivo, Dur­ban, Düs­sel­dorf, Jo­han­nes­burg, Mau­ri­tius, Mumbai and Paris. The Abu Dhabi ser­vice runs daily with Busi­ness Class fares from 5150USD, inclusive of taxes and sur­charges. www. airs­eyc

TIME TO FLY

I’m very rarely early for a flight – and al­most never on time for any­thing if I’m be­ing com­pletely hon­est. But for once I’d made a con­certed ef­fort to go be­yond be­ing punc­tual. Abu Dhabi In­ter­na­tional Air­port is a hive of ac­tiv­ity round the clock, and the mid­night hour ahead of my check-in is cer­tainly no ex­cep­tion, but it was a mat­ter of mo­ments be­fore I’d breezed through the eGate and re­versed my der­riere into a plush arm­chair, bev­er­age in hand. I was in the Eti­had Air­ways Pre­mium Lounge in Abu Dhabi. Thanks to Air Sey­chelle’s af­fil­i­a­tion with the UAE na­tional car­rier, your hol­i­day now starts even ear­lier, and with a re­gal buf­fet, fridges bulging with ‘cold ones’, and am­ple serv­ing sta­tions for every­thing from cap­puc­cino to chow mein. It’s al­ways hard not to fill your prover­bial boots in an air­port lounge, but I was mind­ful of my up­com­ing in-flight din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence – and the so­porific ef­fect of too many in­dul­gent buf­fet swoops. I could have fresh­ened up with the on-site shower fa­cil­ity but opted to pick up a copy of Des­ti­na­tions of the World News from the mag­a­zine rack as I saun­tered over to the gate and made my as­cent to the air­craft.

ON-BOARD

The mod­est-sized A320 air­craft al­lows for four rows of four – pairs of seats across the aisle – in the cosy Busi­ness Class sec­tion, which adds a lit­tle to the feel­ing of ex­clu­siv­ity that seems apt for a break in the Sey­chelles. By the time I’ve slipped my hand lug­gage above the seat I’m back in an­other size­able seat, but this time with a pip­ing hot towel draped over my face. I only re-emerge from the re­fresh­ing towel to eye the choice of wel­come drinks, opt­ing for a hy­drat­ing co­conut wa­ter, in­stead of OJ or bub­bles – a bit of a “when in Rome” mo­ment, and the first of many co­conut drinks on this par­tic­u­lar trip. It’s a short wait un­til we’re nose up and off the tar­mac.

IN THE AIR

For starters, there are a cou­ple of ob­vi­ous men­tions – but nei­ther are as notable as they first seem. As a self-con­fessed screen junkie I was sur­prised at the lack of in-flight en­ter­tain­ment, but given this was a 2.40am “red eye”, I was re­luc­tantly re­lieved to not have that dis­tract­ing glare in my face while I had the chance for some real re­lax­ation. That said, most routes fea­ture per­sonal 10.4-inch touch screen TVs, with a wide selec­tion of films, shows, doc­u­men­taries and games. Se­condly, un­like Air Sey­chelles’ Air­bus A330200 flights from Bei­jing, Paris and Jo­han­nes­burg (se­lected), these hefty Busi­ness Class seats didn’t re­cline to a flat po­si­tion. But it sim­ple wasn’t an is­sue. I’d been handed one of the most deluxe blan­kets I’d ever come across on a flight, and was im­me­di­ately fight­ing with the sand­man to stay away for my (in­cred­i­bly early) “break­fast”.

THE CATER­ING

The menus, in­spired by tra­di­tional Cre­ole cui­sine, were fully re­vamped early last year thanks to the culi­nary mas­tery of the air­line’s cater­ing team. High­lights in­clude an ap­pe­tizer of seared tuna with spicy mango salad, main cour­ses of grilled king prawns in Cre­ole sauce and fish co­conut curry, and a rich wal­nut and car­rot cake for dessert. Since I had the plea­sure of both the out­bound and re­turn ex­pe­ri­ence, the latter is where I’ll elab­o­rate. De­spite gorg­ing on the Sey­chelles’ fruits de mer dur­ing my long week­end, I was still try­ing to savour what­ever seafood op­tions I came across. So, af­ter a fast-van­ish­ing ap­pe­tiser of oc­to­pus salad and prawns, the grilled job­fish fil­let with steamed bas­mati rice, turned veg­gies and Cre­ole co­conut cream sauce was just the ticket.

THE AMENI­TIES

Not much of a sweet tooth, my dessert con­sisted of a frothy am­ber drink straight out of Mahé – Sey­brew. The lo­cally brewed beer was the last in­gre­di­ent to help cal­i­brate my “sense of place” while hurtling at 30,000 feet and shortly be­fore reach­ing for the snug night mask in my amenity kit. Ri­fling through the lit­tle red bag (now my go-to toi­letry pouch), quickly fresh­ened up with the tooth­paste-tooth­brush combo and kicked back with my comfy flight socks be­fore suc­cumb­ing to a heavy pair of eye­lids.

THE AR­RIVAL LOUNGE

Alight­ing back on terra firma, I’m greeted by name to en­joy a leisurely ar­rival at Sey­chelles In­ter­na­tional Air­port’s lux­ury ar­rival lounge. A brisk stroll past the bustling ar­rivals queues and I’m quaffing co­conut wa­ter yet again, and tour­ing the colo­nial-es­que ar­rival villa just ad­ja­cent to the main air­port build­ing. I would say I didn’t have to lift a fin­ger, but I was handed a pen to fill in my board­ing card, but that was about as tax­ing as the ex­pe­ri­ence got. The dé­cor in the build­ing’s el­e­gant “suites” is quintessen­tially Sey­chelles-luxe, with sim­ple but el­e­gant fur­nish­ings and more chances to freshen up, with com­pre­hen­sive shower fa­cil­i­ties. But my driver was prompt and ready, so I de­cided to for­sake bathing once again (apolo­gies) and con­tinue my on­ward jour­ney, rested, nour­ished and fully pried to savour the Sey­chelles.

SALON VAL­LÉE DE MAI

It would be re­miss, how­ever, to not men­tion the air­port’s departure lounge. Named Val­lée de Mai af­ter the UNESCO pro­tected site and na­ture re­serve on the is­land of Praslin, the lounge is a fit­ting por­tal for a cool and calm tran­si­tion back to the real world. Re­plete with dark woods and earth-tone fab­rics, the lounge is com­pli­men­tary for Busi­ness Class trav­ellers but also ac­ces­si­ble for US$40 – a worth in­vest­ment for any trav­eller seek­ing some respite be­fore their re­turn leg. With yet more Sey­chelles snacks and re­fresh­ing good­ies in the buf­fet ar­range­ment, as well as spe­cial ‘rain­for­est’ show­ers to freshen up in a trop­i­cal fash­ion. It’s also the per­fect place to whip out your phone and con­sume the WiFi guilt-free, since you’re about to – oh-so-re­luc­tantly – re­turn to the real world.

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