Maldives to open new seaplane terminal in May 2020

A new seaplane terminal being developed at the Maldives’ main Velana International Airport will come into operation in May 2020, the airport operator announced Wednesday.

Moosa Solih, the acting Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), told local journalists that the new terminal will initially be operated jointly by all the operators. MACL will fully take over the operations of the terminal in three years, he said.

“We can’t take over the operations right away because there are existing contracts with the operators. We also need to ensure a smooth transfer of operations from the existing terminal to the new one,” Solih said, after a tour of the new developments taking place at the airport.

“At MACL, we’re building our capacity to run the seaplane terminal. Based on our progress, we’ll be gradually taking over different aspects of the operations, culminating in a full takeover in about three years.”

The new seaplane terminal is being built on reclaimed lagoon behind the air traffic control tower on the eastern side of the airport island of Hulhule. The new terminal sits on 18,000 square metres of reclaimed land and the accompanying seaplane hanger is being built on additional 14,000 square metres of reclaimed land.

Solih stressed that the water aerodrome of the new terminal will initially have the capacity to accommodate 55 seaplanes at a time, but can be expanded to accommodate 100.

Four operators can comfortably provide service from the four-storey terminal, he added.

Passenger facilities at the new terminal will include a spacious arrival lobby, VIP lounges and restaurants.

Photo: Mihaaru Online

The terminal, which costs USD 40 million, is part of a USD 800 million mega project to expand and upgrade the Maldives’ main gateway to cater to at least seven million passengers per annum. The project also involves building a brand new runway and a new international passenger terminal, as well as other support facilities, including a fuel farm that can store 45 million litres and a 120,000 tonne cargo facility.

Seaplane is the preferred mode of transport between the main Velana International Airport and dozens of resorts, especially those located in outer atolls.

Three airlines currently provide seaplane service: flagship carrier Maldivian, and privately run Trans Maldivian Airways and Manta Air. Private airline Villa Air’s Flyme is also set to begin seaplane operations soon.

TMA, which is controlled by a consortium led by US-based Bain Capital and Chinese conglomerate Tempus Group, operates an all-amphibian fleet of more than 50 aircraft, making it the largest seaplane operator in the world.

Maldivian has a fleet of 10 seaplanes.

Manta Air, which launched the Maldives’ first scheduled seaplane service in November, uses six Twin Otter aircraft. Another four are expected to join the airline’s seaplane fleet by year-end.

The seaplane operators are investing heavily in expanding their operations, especially their fleet. The expansion comes in line with growing tourist arrivals and increasing bed capacity due to the opening of dozens of new resorts in the Maldives.

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