Maldives flagship carrier to lease Airbus aircraft to begin Beijing, Shanghai flights

Maldives flagship carrier Maldivian has invited proposals to acquire a new aircraft, in a bid to further expand operations to China.

The Request For Proposal (RFP) issued last week was for the wet lease of an Airbus A330-200 starting July 23. The A330-200 aircraft should be less than 15 years old with two class (economy and business) configuration, it said.

According to the RFP, the aircraft would be used for direct operations between Maldives and China. It is expected to make two flights per week to Chinese capital Beijing and three flights per week to Shanghai.

No airline currently has direct operations between Male and Beijing, and Male and Shanghai. Travellers from these two major Chinese cities now have to opt for transit flights with stopovers in Sri Lankan capital Colombo or Kong Kong.

Maldivian currently operates a fleet of two Dash8-200 series aircrafts, seven Dash8-300 series aircrafts, and an Airbus 320 and another Airbus 321 aircraft. The Dash aircrafts are primarily used for domestic operations while the two Airbus aircrafts service the airline’s international routes.

The state owned airline 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. Chinese cities served by the airline include Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Nanjing, Wuhan and Xian.

The plans to expand operations to China come as tourist arrivals from China decline.

Arrivals from China, which still maintains the position as the biggest source market, dropped 15.4 percent in April to reach 20,975 from 24,794 in April 2016. With the latest decline, China’s market share in the Maldives tourism industry has now dropped to 17.5 percent from an all-time high of above 30 percent some four years ago.

The Maldives has, however, recently announced plans to step up marketing in China in order to increase the number of Chinese tourists to one million per year.

Maldivian had earlier issued RFPs for the purchase of a DHC-8-300 aircraft and for the leasing of an Airbus A321 as well.

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

Maldivian has also recently expanded into seaplane operations. The airline has an all amphibian fleet of nine DHC-6 Twin Otter aircrafts for its seaplane operations.

Seaplane is the preferred mode of transport between the main Velana International Airport and dozens of resorts, especially those located in the outer atolls.

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