Alitalia begins scheduled direct flights to Maldives
Italy’s flagship carrier Alitalia on Wednesday began its first ever scheduled direct operations to the Maldives.
A special ceremony was held at the Maldives main Velana International Airport Wednesday afternoon to inaugurate the scheduled service. Officials from state-owned airport operator Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) and Alitalia’s local agent Voyages Maldives attended the ceremony.
Voyages Maldives Managing Director Solah Shihab told the attendees that the scheduled service by Alitalia would give a much needed boost to tourist arrivals from Europe.
“Italian market is recovering well. Alitalia’s operations will help increase arrivals from Italy as well as from the whole of Europe,” he said.
Italy ranks fourth amongst the source markets for Maldives tourism, after China, Germany and the UK, and ahead of much more populated countries such as India, Russia and the US. The average stay for Italians, who were the first to spot the potential of tourism in the pristine atolls over four decades ago, in the Maldives is between four and 11 nights.
Since 1985, Alitalia has operated chartered flights to the Maldives. However, the latest flight was in 2014.
The new three weekly Rome-Male service will operate for the whole winter season until March 24, 2018.
The Rome-Male flight will depart from Rome every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 9.45pm (local time) and will land in Male at 11.05am (local time) on the following day. The return flight from the Maldives will depart every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 1.10pm (local time) and will land in Rome at 7.30pm (local time).
The route will be served using a 250-seater Airbus A330 jet, configured in three classes of service: business, premium economy and economy.
Alitalia is the latest European airline to begin direct flight operations to the Maldives.
Air France is set to begin operating direct flights to the Maldives on Thursday, with two weekly flights to the Velana International Airport on departure from Paris-Charles de Gaulle.
Alitalia and Air France are amongst the few airlines operating direct flights between Europe and the Maldives. Majority of travellers from Europe are now required to take transit routes on airlines such as Emirates and SriLankan Airlines.
Scheduled operations by Italy’s flagship airline come amidst announcements by several international airlines to increase flight frequency to the island nation ahead of the upcoming peak tourist season.
Qatar Airways has become the first airline to deploy an A350 jet to a South Asian country, as the advanced jetliner’s maiden flight to the Maldives, piloted by a veteran Maldivian captain, landed in the island nation’s main airport on Tuesday.
Hainan Airlines, which flies to the Maldives from the Chinese Shenzhen city, will from December 27 begin operating two flights a week, while Beijing Capital Airlines will from October 29 shift to a daily service from four times a week service.
From October 29, Emirates has also increased its fight frequency from four to five a day.
Dubai-based Emirates began its service to the Maldives in May 1987 using a single Boeing 727 aircraft. It now operates four times daily service to the Maldives from Dubai, with transit routes, including neighbouring Sri Lanka, and uses Boeing 777-300s for its Male operations.
Emirates has become a major airline operating to the Maldives and has been serving for years as a preferred airline of tourists visiting the island nation from far corners of the world, especially Europe.
From October 30, Malaysia-based low-cost airline AirAsia has also added four flights per week to its existing daily service. It will be followed by an increase in January 2018 to nine flights per week from a four times weekly service by SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines.
Meanwhile, Chinese low-cost carrier Lucky Air is set to begin flight operations to the Maldives in January 2018.
December to April is considered the peak tourist season, as these months constitute summers in Maldives. Between December and April, the islands boast of dry weather, making it ideal for tourists to travel and enjoy the tropical environment.
Resorts across the archipelago organise special activities for the festive season, which falls during the peak tourist season. Popular resorts such as Baros Maldives, Amilla Fushi and Finolhu Maldives, Soneva Fushi, The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort and Mirihi Island Resort have already announced their festive programmes for this year.
After years of double-digit growth in tourism, the Maldives has over the recent years observed a slowdown in growth. Tourist arrivals have crossed the one million milestone and is on course to reach 1.5 million by the end of this year, but the country has been struggling to create demand amidst a significant increase in bed capacity.
Photo: Ahmed Shurau/Avas Online