Mega Maldives Airlines to start flights to Saudi Arabia
Maldives.net.mv – With an eye on the ever-growing Gulf and Middle East market, Mega Maldives Airlines is set to launch its services to Saudi Arabia.
“In fact, we are getting ready and will launch our maiden flights to the Kingdom very soon,” said George Weinmann, CEO of Mega Maldives Airlines in a recent interview with Arab News.
“We have observed that the interest is very strong during our visit to Saudi Arabia. So, we are very excited about offering our services to the Kingdom,” Weinmann told Arab News.
“Jeddah will be our first choice, but we will also hope to provide services to Riyadh, followed by Madinah and possibly Dammam,” said Weinmann, who was in Saudi Arabia to initiate formalities for launching the flights.
The airline is initially planning to operate its 6-hour nonstop flights three to four times a week to Saudi Arabia.
The carrier now has a fleet of four aircraft. Within the next few months two more planes — Boeing 767 and Boeing 757 — will be added, raising the number of aircraft to six.
Explaining the carrier’s choice of B757 aircraft, he said that the decision was made in the context of its superior range performance. He said: “The Maldives is in the middle of the Indian Ocean from where major markets like Saudi Arabia or China are 6 hours or more away by air. In the Maldives, the nearest alternate (diversion) airport is about an hour away. Smaller aircraft like A320s don’t have a range to cover the six-hour flights. So, you have to fly larger aircraft like the 757. The 757 is designed to fly up to 8 hours so by choosing this aircraft we can enter new markets and develop these markets with very comfortable and very reliable aircraft, and then switch to bigger, wider aircraft as the market grows larger. But people like to have frequency, and the 757 helps us offer more choice without compromising on performance or service.”
Weinmann said: “At present, we are flying to some Chinese destinations, but we see opportunities in new markets. Just like the Chinese market, the globally recognized fast growing and attractive new outbound markets are basically in the Middle East-Gulf region. In the region, we see Saudi Arabia is underserved by international destinations. That is why we have chosen to focus on the Middle East and that is why we are here in Jeddah.”
He said the carrier is also planning to extend its network into Southeast Asia — to Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and other cities in that region as well as to Australia.
He said many Saudi nationals have been visiting the Maldives. “Last year, about 10,000 Saudis visited the island. In 2009, there were only about 3,000 or so Saudis toured the islands. So the number has grown very fast. We hope to see 15,000 to 20,000 Saudi visitors in the Maldives, and we hope direct flights will support this.” he said.
“Saudi Arabia is not as big a country as China, but we see a lot of opportunities here,” said the CEO. Weinmann said: “We expect to have very good business coming from the Maldives to Saudi Arabia also. Maldivians like to travel abroad and the Kingdom is expected to be a popular choice. And through our hub in Male, we are very well positioned to connect Southeast Asia and the Kingdom as well.”
He said the air services agreement between the Maldives and Saudi Arabia allows for regular Umrah and Haj flights.
Muhammad Najmi, general manager for Nudra Aviation, owned by Abdul Aziz Gabel, says the company is working with Mega Maldives Airlines to promote the carrier in Saudi Arabia.
Weinmann said Maldivian airlines had been granted access to all the main international airports in Saudi Arabia. The Maldives Civil Aviation Authority signed the agreement with the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) recently.