Qatar Airways to increase Maldives flight capacity with first A350 service to South Asia
Qatar Airways is to deploy an A350 jet on its flight operations to the Maldives in an attempt to cater to the increase in demand during the upcoming peak tourist season in the island nation.
Adil Moosa, Managing Director of state-owned airport operator Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), said it would be the first ever A350 jet deployed by the airline to the Maldives as well as to any South Asian destination.
“This is a huge boost to the Maldives tourism industry,” he said, at a ceremony held Wednesday afternoon to unveil new departure gates and expanded baggage carousels at the main Velana International Airport.
Qatar Airways will use an A350-900 jet for twice daily flights to and from the Maldives between November 1 and March 31, 2018.
Positioned to compete with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the A350 entered service in 2015 with Qatar Airways as the launch customer. As the first Airbus aircraft with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer, the A350 offers more space with wider seats and features state-of-the-art technology.
Qatar Airways is popular amongst travellers from Europe who often transit in Doha before flying to the Maldives.
The capacity increase by Qatar Airways follows announcements by several international airlines to increase flight frequency to the island nation ahead of the upcoming peak tourist season.
Air France will begin scheduled operations to the Maldives on November 2, followed by Indian budget carrier GoAir on December 1.
Air France will be offering two weekly flights to the Maldives main Velana International Airport on departure from Paris-Charles de Gaulle.
Air France flights will be operated by Boeing 777-200 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.
GoAir will fly from Mumbai using an 180 seater Airbus A-320 aircraft.
Italy’s flagship carrier Alitalia, which earlier had charter services, will also begin direct flights to the Maldives from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport on October 31. The new three-weekly Rome-Male service will operate for the whole winter season until March 24, 2018.
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 will also increase 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 will also add four flights per week to its existingdaily 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.