South African Airways launches additional charters to Maldives for holiday season

South African Airways has launched additional charter flights to the Maldives, coinciding with the island nation’s tourist peak season.

The third phase of South African Airways’ charters, operated between O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and Gan International Airport in the southernmost Maldives atoll of Addu, began Sunday morning.

A 300-seater Airbus A340 jet is used for the weekly direct charter.

South African Airways became the first long haul international airline to fly to Gan International Airport when the flagship carrier of South Africa first launched its weekly charters during the last holiday season.

The airline operated additional 24 non-stop charter flights to the Maldives from April to October.

The flights are operated under an exclusive charter agreement between South African Airways, Air Tour Operators (ATO) and the Maldives tourism ministry.

Despite several new resort developments and a boom in guesthouse tourism in the Maldives, Addu as a whole has lagged behind for years in attracting tourism-related investments. Up until recently, the relatively large atoll, which has unique geographical features compared to other parts of the island nation, was home to only two of the some 140 tourist resorts in the Maldives; Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, and Canareef Resort Maldives.

South Palm Resort Maldives, a brand new property developed on the uninhabited island of Ismehela Hera, opened early this month.

However, tourism in the south has recently received a much needed boost from the launch of direct flights to Gan International Airport by SriLankan Airlines.

Neighbouring Sri Lanka’s flagship carrier, which is particularly popular amongst tourists who travel to the Maldives from Europe, currently operates six weekly flights to Gan from Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.

South Africa was once a major source market for the Maldives, but it has declined significantly over the years.

However, tourist arrivals from South Africa are gaining momentum once again, as the Maldives welcomed 7,751 South African tourists in 2018 — a 9.9 per cent increase over the 7,050 in the same period of 2017. Arrivals from the country has also seen an 18.6 per cent growth in the first 10 months of this year to reach 6,970 from the 5,876 in the same period last year.

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