Maldives tourism set to get a boost as national airline announces Sri Lanka flights

Maldives flagship carrier Maldivian has announced plans to begin scheduled direct flights to neighbouring Sri Lanka next month.

Ali Nashath, Head of Administration at Island Aviation Services Limited which operates the national airline, told state broadcaster last week that the airline would be operating flights to Ratmalana Airport. Three flights a week would be held initially with plans to increase the frequency depending on demand, he added.

Maldivian will become the first to operate scheduled international flights to Ratmalana Airport in 50 years. Ratmalana Airport, which is located a 20-minute drive away from capital Colombo, was Sri Lanka’s first and only international airport until all foreign traffic was transferred to the Bandaranaike International Airport in 1967.

According to a Sri Lankan government press release, Sri Lankan Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Nimal de Silva met with Maldives tourism minister Moosa Zameer in Colombo last month. At the meeting, de Silva declared Ratmalana Airport fit for international operations once more.

Maldivian will run a 3x weekly return service to the airport from Maldives main Velana International Airport using Dash-8 turboprop equipment. The route is aimed primarily at the tourist niche given the airfield’s closer proximity to downtown Colombo than Bandaranaike International Airport, which takes at least an hour to reach.

Sri Lanka is a popular transit point for tourists travelling to the island paradise of Maldives from destinations such as Europe. However, Sri Lanka’s flagship carrier SriLankan Airlines is the only airline that currently operates direct flights between Male and Colombo.

As the Maldives flagship carrier seeks to expand operations to neighbouring countries and to traditional source markets for the island nation’s multi-million dollar tourism industry, Maldivian has invited proposals to acquire two new aircrafts. The Request For Proposals (RFPs) issued at the end of last month are for the purchase of a DHC-8-300 aircraft and for the leasing of an Airbus A321.

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