Manta Air welcomes first aircraft

Manta Air has welcomed the first aircraft to its fleet as the brand new domestic airline prepares to begin commercial flight operations soon.

A special function was held Monday afternoon at the Maamehi Executive Lounge at the main Velana International Airport to welcome the ATR 72-600 aircraft. At the ceremony, top officials from Manta Air were joined by representatives from civil aviation, customs and immigration departments as well as those from the Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL).

Manta Air aircraft, just before landing at the Velana International Airport. PHOTO/ MUMTHAZ

The first addition to Manta Air’s fleet is the latest generation of ATR aircraft, the ATR 72-600 series, which benefits from the widest cabin in the turboprop market, new ergonomic design for greater comfort, new seats, and wider overhead bins with 30 percent more roller bags stowage. They are also the lowest seat per mile cost aircraft on the 70 seat segment, thanks to significantly lower fuel and maintenance costs compared to its competitors.

Manta Air has gone the extra mile to customise seats to provide the best comfort with the additional legroom.

“At Manta Air, our goal is to provide all our customers with a reliable, friendly and hassle-free travel experience,” Manta Air CEO Mohamed Khaleel was quoted in a statement, as saying.

“Our brand new aircraft will have more legroom and quieter rooms than other carriers. We will make sure everyone on board is delighted with their experience. We wish to make seamless domestic air travel accessible to as many people as possible.”

Manta Air aircraft, just before landing at the Velana International Airport. PHOTO/ SHAFRAN SHAKIR

Manta Air had late last month secured two ATR 72-600 aircraft through Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC). The second aircraft will join Manta Air’s fleet before the end of the year.

Manta Air will initially operate the aircraft from the Maldives main Velana International Airport to three domestic airports: Kudahuvadhoo in Dhaalu atoll, Dharavandhoo in Baa atoll and Thimarafushi in Thaa atoll.

In addition to turboprop aircraft for domestic operations, Manta Air is also in the process of acquiring Twin Otter seaplanes.

Manta Air was founded in 2016 as a joint venture between Deep Blue Private Limited, a local company with multiple investments in tourism, and tourism pioneer Umar Mohamed Maniku. The company was created to cater to the need for more air travel options and to support the rapid developments in the aviation industry in light of the development of new airports and the fast paced expansion of resorts and guesthouses across the country. 

Maldives flagship carrier Maldivian and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Air are the only two airlines currently active in the Maldives. Seaplane services are provided by Maldivian as well as privately run Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), which has the largest seaplane fleet in the world.

Launching of a new domestic airline comes amidst increased efforts by the government to expand the air transport network in the Maldives.

Over a million tourists from across the globe visit the Indian Ocean island nation every year to holiday in one of the 130 plus resorts and over 400 guesthouses located in all corners of the country. The multi-billion dollar tourism industry, which is the country’s main economic activity, relies heavily on the domestic transport infrastructure, especially air travel.

Maldives, the most dispersed country on the planet with 1,192 islands spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres, already has 11 airports, including three international airports. The government has contracted both local and international companies to develop additional domestic airports across the archipelago in a bid to boost tourism.

Meanwhile, a USD 800 million mega project has been launched to expand and upgrade the main Velana International Airport. The project involves building a brand new runway, an international passenger terminal and a seaplane terminal as well as other support facilities, including a fuel farm that can store 45 million litres and a 120,000 tonne cargo facility.  

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