Test flights to new intl airport in Maldives north set for July

Test flights will begin next month to a brand new international airport in the northern atoll of Noonu, government has announced.

After inspecting the work at the airport being developed on the island of Maafaru, tourism minister Moosa Zameer told reporters last week that the project is on track despite bad weather causing delays in certain aspects. Construction of the runway will begin in a week with the work expected to be completed early next month, he said.

“Test flights will begin late July. Scheduled domestic service is expected to begin in October,” the minister was quoted as saying, in an interview with state broadcaster PSM News.

Abu Dhabi Fund has earlier extended a grant of USD 60 million for the project, which has been awarded to Singapore’s leading engineering company Tuff Offshore.

The project involves developing a 2.2-kilometre runway along with state-of-the-art facilities to cater international flight operations and private jets. A city hotel will also be built along with the airport.

Noonu atoll is located about 180 kilometres north of capital Male, on the southern edge of the Maldives’ northernmost geographical atoll.

Existing high-end resorts in Noonu atoll include the Velaa Private Island, The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, Cheval Blanc Randheli and the recently opened Soneva Jani. Several new resorts, including those by international hotel chains, are being developed in the atoll.

Over a million tourists from across the globe visit the Indian Ocean island nation every year to holiday in one of the 120 resorts and 450 plus 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 country’s flagship carrier Maldivian operates flights to all the airports in the country, while a private airline flies to a few select airports.

Government has contracted both local and international companies to develop additional domestic airports across the archipelago in a bid to boost tourism.

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