Maldives national airline to add new China routes to boost tourist arrivals

Maldives flagship carrier Maldivian has announced plans to start operations to new destinations in China as the island nation seeks to regain losing share in the Chinese outbound travel market.

Abdul Haris, Managing Director of the airline’s parent company Island Aviation Services Limited, told local media on Sunday that new cities in China would be added to its list of destinations later this year. The new destinations would be serviced by a new Airbus A321 aircraft being leased, he added.

“We are in the process of finalising the lease. Once we get the aircraft, we will also increase the number of flights to Bangkok and Trivandrum,” Haris was quoted as saying.

Maldivian, which currently operates a fleet of two Dash8-200 series aircrafts, seven Dash8-300 series aircrafts, an Airbus 320 and an Airbus 321 aircraft, invited proposals in March for the leasing of an additional Airbus A321 for a period of six years. According to the Request For Proposals (RFPs) issued at the time, the Airbus A321 should be less than 10 years old, and should have 194 Economy class seats and six Business class seats.

Maldivian currently flies to six cities in China; Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Nanjing, Wuhan, Xian.

The new routes are expected to boost tourist arrivals from China, which has maintained its position as the single biggest source market despite falling numbers over the past year. In 2016, the Maldives welcomed 324,326 visitors from China, which was a 9.8 percent drop compared to the previous year. China has continued its downward spiral this year as well with a 9.5 percent drop in Chinese arrivals in March.

Maldivian operates flights to all the 10 domestic airports across the Maldives, and runs international operations to South Asian neighbours India and Bangladesh, and far Eastern countries such as Thailand and China. The airline is also in the process of starting flights to neighbouring Sri Lanka.

The latest fleet expansion by the Maldives’ flagship carrier is in line with its plans to boost operations to major tourist markets such as Europe. Maldivian announced at the recently concluded ITB Berlin fair that it had initiated negotiations with three European companies to expand flight operations to Europe.

Europe is the single biggest source market for the Maldives tourism industry with a share of over 50 percent of the total arrivals. According to official figures, the European marked observed an year on year increase of 13.5 percent in the first two months of this year.

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