Singapore Airlines slashes Maldives frequency in group-wide capacity cut over ‘greatest challenge’
Singapore Airlines has reduced frequency on its service to the Maldives, as it became the latest major carrier to ground all but a handful of planes and flights as the Covid-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on the global travel industry.
The airline, one of Asia’s largest international carriers, on Monday announced it would cut flight capacity by 96 per cent until the end of April and ground 185 of 196 aircraft, citing the “greatest challenge” in its history due to the tightening of borders by countries around the world.
The group’s low-cost unit Scoot will also suspend most of its network, resulting in the grounding of 47 of its fleet of 49 aircraft.
Singapore Airlines, consistently ranked as the world’s best airline, first flew to the Maldives in March 1984 with a weekly Singapore-Male service, whilst regional wing SilkAir launched four-times-weekly services in October 2015.
Singapore Airlines and SilkAir operate a total of 16 weekly services to Male, offering convenient connections to other destinations in the SIA and SilkAir network.
With the latest changes, only four flights per week will serve the Singapore-Male route.
Singapore Airlines said it was “unclear” when it would begin to resume normal services “given the uncertainty as to when the stringent border controls will be lifted”.
“The resultant collapse in the demand for air travel has led to a significant decline in SIA’s passenger revenues,” a statement issued by Singapore Airlines read.
“The Company is actively taking steps to build up its liquidity, and to reduce capital expenditure and operating costs. As mentioned on 17 March 2020, SIA will continue to aggressively pursue all measures to address the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the Company.”
Singapore Airlines joins a host of other international airlines with operations to the Maldives that are scaling back their operations amidst the global economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dubai’s Emirates, which operates four daily services to the Maldives, and Turkish Airlines, which has a daily service between Istanbul and Male, have suspended their operations to the Maldives as part of a wider scaling back of operations.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has announced plans to adjust frequency on its Maldives service to one flight per day from March 23.
Bangkok Airways has announced similar cancellations and frequency reductions.
The global coronavirus outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.
On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago. Eleven more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels — were later identified.
However, three out of the 13 have made full recoveries, whilst the rest are being treated at designated quarantine facilities.
Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.
The public health emergency declaration has allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including a ban on inter-island travel of tourists, including for excursions and between resort islands.
A nationwide shut down of all guesthouses and city hotels has also been ordered. Spa facilities located on inhabited islands have also been closed.
The Maldives had closed its borders to arrivals from some of the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Visitors from three regions of Germany (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg), two regions of France (Île-de-France and Grand Est) and two regions of South Korea are also banned from entering the country.
All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran had also been cancelled.
Cruise ships and foreign yachts had also been banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.
The island nation had installed thermal screening cameras at its international airports.
Quarantine facilities, including designated islets from the 1,192 islands that make up the archipelago, had been established.