Seaplanes no longer at sea: Dramatic photos show stored seaplanes as coronavirus puts stop to air travel

If you have been to the Maldives, you would have probably been on or seen a seaplane!

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

Three airlines provide seaplane service in the Maldives: flagship carrier Maldivian, Manta Air, which operates the country’s first and only scheduled seaplane service, and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), the world’s largest seaplane operator.

The seaplane service has a very simple approach; they ferry tourists (and a limited number of locals) from the country’s main international airport to resorts across the archipelago.

So, the more tourists there is, the more seaplane flights there will be, and vice versa!

As the novel coronavirus spreads around the world, tourism and air travel has come to a virtual halt.

Between shelter-in-place orders, border closures, travel bans, and social distancing advisories, demand for air travel has also plummeted, leading airlines to suspend routes, cancel flights, ground huge portions of their fleets, and give early retirements to older planes.

The Maldivian aviation industry is no exception.

Almost all the domestic carriers, which fly more tourists than locals, have suspended commercial flight operations, owing to a slump in tourist arrivals due to a blanket suspension of on-arrival visa.

Before the pandemic, the government had been bullish about tourism prospects, targeting two million, high-spending holidaymakers this year after last year’s record 1.7 million.

However, tourist arrivals saw a year-over-year decline of 22.8 per cent in the first 10 days of March. Officials say the number of tourist arrivals to the Maldives could drop by half in 2020.

With arrival numbers falling and the visa suspension in effect, several resorts across the Maldives had been closed.

That’s bad news for domestic airlines, especially seaplane operators whose operations are solely dependant on tourists!

TMA has been forced to ground half of its 57-aircraft fleet, as there is little to no flying. The airline’s iconic white and red Twin Otter aircraft can now be seen stored at the eastern apron of Velana International Airport.

The stored active, but grounded, Twin Otters provide a dramatic sight for aviation enthusiasts, with several photos already making the rounds on social media. The photos reveal collections of the small planes on floats that sit idle as the travel industry waits to return to normal.

Take a look at the pictures below.

PHOTO: ARUSHAD (@tropical_aviator)
PHOTO: ARUSHAD (@tropical_aviator)
PHOTO: ARUSHAD (@tropical_aviator)

Cover photo: Arushad (@tropical_aviator)

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