Indian low-cost carrier GoAir mulls starting Maldives flights

Indian low-cost carrier GoAir is expected to begin flights to Maldives this year as it secured the licence to begin international flight operations to nine destinations.

Indian government has given the permission to GoAir, the fifth biggest airline in India by marketshare, to fly to the Maldives, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, China, Vietnam, Qatar and Saudi Arabia from March 2017.

Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, Managing Director and CEO of GoAir, told Indian media that the airline is keen to begin flying internationally towards the end of the current fiscal year. Destinations will be finalised and announced soon, he added.

“We will soon have 30 percent of the aircraft needed to be flying overseas,” Wolfgang said.

Based in Mumbai, GoAir commenced operations in November 2005 and operates a fleet of Airbus 18 Airbus A320-200 and five Airbus A320neo aircrafts in all economy configuration. As of June, the airline operates over 140 daily flights to 23 cities in India from its hubs at Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.

The airline is in the process of expanding its fleet, with 37 aircrafts expected to enter into service by the end of this year.

Flagship carriers of the Maldives and India currently operate scheduled flights to and from major cities, including Bangalore, Trivandrum and Chennai. Low-cost Indian airline SpiceJet also operates daily direct connections between Kochi and Male, and Trivandrum and Male.

Introduction of flight operations by another low-cost airline is expected to help both the countries, and further boost tourist arrivals to the Maldives from India, which has become a major emerging source market for the Maldives’ tourism industry.

Official figures show that 66,955 tourists arrived in Maldives from its closest neighbour last year, a 27.9 percent increase from the 52,368 Indian travellers that chose the Maldives in 2015.

That growth is expected to continue this year as well, as the number of Indian tourists that visited the Maldives recorded a 20.3 percent increase in the first five months to reach 30,610 compared to 25,441 in the same period last year.

Maldives has also become a sought after destination by Bollywood stars.

Famous Bollywood stars who have visited the Maldives include Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Alia Bhatt and Priyanka Chopra. Bollywood couples such as Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor have also spent their vacation in the Maldives, while Bollywood couple Arbaaz Khan and Malaika Arora Khan has declared the Maldives as their favourite holiday destination.

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