Air France begins direct flights to Maldives
Air France on Thursday began operating direct flights to the Maldives.
The maiden flight of Air France landed at the Maldives main Velana International Airport Thursday morning to a water salute. Economic minister Mohamed Saeed along with top officials from state-owned airport operator Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) greeted the crew and passengers.
Air France will offer two weekly flights to the Maldives on departure from Paris-Charles de Gaulle.
The airline will use a Boeing 777-200 jet equipped with the latest Air France travel cabins, and with a capacity of 312 seats, including 28 in Business, 24 in Premium Economy and 260 in Economy. Flights operate on Wednesdays and Saturdays on departure from Paris and on Thursdays and Sundays on departure from Male.
The scheduled direct service by Air France is expected to give a much needed boost to tourist arrivals from France as well as from the whole of Europe.
Despite France being an important source market for the Maldives tourism industry, numbers have become stagnant over the past months. According to the latest figures, arrivals from France observed an year-on-year increase of just 3.9 percent in the first eight months of the year.
The flagship carrier of France is the latest European airline to begin direct flight operations to the Maldives.
Italy’s flagship carrier Alitalia on Wednesday began its first ever scheduled direct operations to the Maldives.
Air France and Alitalia 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 direct operations by the flagship carriers of France and Italy 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.