Gulf Air begins Maldives service with five weekly direct flights

Maldives on Sunday welcomed the first flight by Bahrain’s flagship carrier Gulf Air.

The first Gulf Air flight landed at the Maldives main Velana International Airport Sunday morning. Officials of state-owned airport operator Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) welcomed the crew of the flight.

Gulf Air will operate five weekly non-stop flights from Bahrain International Airport, departing at 11.20pm and landing at 6.25am local time and then an onward journey to Colombo at 7.25am, landing at 9.25am. The return flight begins in Colombo at 4.55pm, arrival in Male at 5.55pm and departing to the Kingdom of Bahrain at 6.55pm, landing at 10.05pm.

This route will be served by Gulf Air’s third and newest Airbus A320neo jet, which was welcomed into the airline’s fleet in June. This is part of a major fleet development project, which will see the airline receive a total of 12 Airbus A320neo aircraft by the end of 2023.

Gulf Air’s A320neo is the most advanced and fuel-efficient version of the single-aisle A320 aircraft family. Featuring the widest single aisle cabin in the market, the new aircraft is equipped with LEAP-1A engines from CFM International and feature large wingtip devices known as Sharklets. The A320neo is also more eco-friendly with 5,000 tonnes less CO2 emissions per year per aircraft, and nearly 50 per cent reduction in noise footprint compared to previous generation aircraft.

Since its establishment in 1950, Gulf Air has become a major international carrier, serving 50 destinations in 28 countries across Africa, Asia and Europe. The airline operates double daily flights or more to 10 regional cities, in addition to select destinations in the Indian subcontinent and Europe, from its hub at Bahrain International Airport.

Gulf Air operates a modern fleet of 36 aircraft, with orders for 37 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft due for delivery commencing in early next year.

Middle East has become an emerging source market for the Maldives.

In 2018, 52,114 tourists from Middle Eastern countries visited the Maldives — a 5.9 per cent increase over the 49,193 in 2017. This growth is set to continue this year, as Middle East saw its market share reach 3.9 per cent due to a 14.9 per cent year-over-year increase in the number of tourist arrivals (42,774) in the January-August period.

Major airlines in the Middle East, including Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Oman Air and Saudia already operate flights to the Maldives.

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