Maldives flagship carrier mulls over direct South Africa flights

Maldives flagship carrier Maldivian has announced ongoing efforts to determine the possibility of starting direct flight operations to South Africa.

An official from parent company Island Aviation Services Limited told state broadcaster Public Service Media (PSM) that a team from the company had recently visited South Africa to conduct market research. A team from the South African government was also in the Maldives recently to carry out a similar analysis, he added.

“Initial assessments are very positive, but a decision has not been made yet,” the official was quoted as saying.

No airline currently has direct operations between the Maldives and South Africa. Travellers from South Africa now have to opt for transit flights with stopovers in Dubai, Doha or Sri Lankan capital Colombo.

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.

Maldivian has recently issued separate RFPs for the purchase of a DHC-8-300 aircraft, and for the leasing of an Airbus A321 and an Airbus A330-200.

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 China, and neighbouring Sri Lanka.

South Africa was once a major source market for the Maldives, but it has declined significantly over the years. However, arrivals from South Africa are gaining momentum once again, as the Maldives welcomed 2,975 South African tourists in the first six months of this year — a 52.7 percent increase over the 1,948 in the same period of last year.

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