Indian budget airline GoAir to begin Maldives flights in October

Indian low-cost carrier GoAir has announced plans to begin international flight operations in October, with Maldives and Phuket as the first destinations.

Indian government has given 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.

GoAir Managing Director Jehangir Wadia told Business Standard that his airline had planned to begin international operations with flights from Kochi to Doha in Qatar and Dammam in Saudi Arabia by the second-half of this year. But the launches have been put on the back burner, with the Maldives and Phuket taking the first two spots on its international route map, he added.

“We have plans to start overseas operations from October this year,” Wadia was quoted as saying. 

Based in Mumbai, GoAir commenced operations in November 2005, and operates a fleet of 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.

According to Business Standard, GoAir is expected to receive two planes by October and would firm up its overseas plans by then.

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 half of the year to reach 37,529 compared to 30,101 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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