Maldives expects 10 intl airlines to operate flights at July reopening
Ten international airlines have applied for slots from the Maldives main airport to operate flights to the island nation once it reopens its borders in July, aviation officials in the island nation announced Sunday.
Ibrahim Hussein, terminal manager at the Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) which runs the main Velana International Airport, told a parliamentary committee that several airlines had expressed interest to operate scheduled flights to the Maldives from July.
Starting July 1, SriLankan Airlines wants to operate three daily flights between Colombo and Male, while Qatar Airways plans to fly once a day on the Doha-Male sector.
However, most airlines want to begin flights from July 15. That include:
- Emirates: one daily
- Etihad Airways: twice a week
- Hong Kong Airlines: twice a week
- IndiGo: two daily
- Singapore Airlines: one daily
- Silk Air: two daily
- Turkish Airlines: five days a week, two services per day
Moosa Solih, acting Managing Director of MACL, said airlines that had regular flight operations to the Maldives before the coronavirus pandemic want to resume a limited number of services.
“They are waiting for us to announce a date [for reopening the borders]. This will proceed once a date is finalised at the national level,” he said.
“Most of the traffic will be private jets and charters.”
Solih warned that health and safety measures put in place in the wake of the pandemic will cut down the number of international arrivals that could be accommodated at a given time to 570 from 1,000 and departures to 750 from 1,200.
Blue markers, spaced three feet apart, are in place in front of ticketing and check-in counters, and at the pre-flight inspection zone in the international terminal, as well as in front of the check-in counters in the domestic terminal at the Velana International Airport.
Glass separators of four feet have also been installed in between all check-in counters.
The social distancing measures are complemented by added hygiene and safety measures, including daily disinfection of all seats, desks, lounge areas, ticketing and check-in counters, and flooring and airport tarmac area.
The Maldives is preparing o reopen its borders to visitors in July.
The 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.
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, only 382,760 tourists visited the Maldives before the country closed its borders on March 27. It was a 40.8 per cent decline over the 646,092 that visited the Maldives from January to March last year.
With arrival numbers falling, several resorts across the Maldives had been closed.
Tourism has been the bedrock of the Maldives’ economic success. The $5 billion-dollar economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018 with tourism generating 60 per cent of foreign income.
However, the government is at present projecting a possible 13 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.
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.
Eighteen more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels except five Maldivians who had returned from abroad — were later identified.
A six-case cluster of locals, detected in capital Male on April 15, confirmed community transmission of the coronavirus. Several more clusters have since been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed case in the Maldives to 2,187.
Eight deaths have been reported and 1,788 have made full recoveries.
The 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 allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including stay-at-home orders in capital Male and its suburbs, a ban on inter-island transport and public gatherings across the country, and a nationwide closing of government offices, schools, colleges and universities.
Non-essential services and public places in the capital such as gyms, cinemas and parks were also shut.
Restaurants and cafes in the capital were asked to stop dine-in service and switch to takeaway and delivery.
A nationwide shutdown of all guesthouses, city hotels and spa facilities located on inhabited islands was also ordered.
These measures allowed authorities to contain the outbreak.
More than half of the people who contracted the virus have recovered and daily recoveries have over taken the number of new infections detected per day.
The restrictions are now being eased in phases, with the second phase lasting at least until June end.
Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the Maldives expected 10 international flights per day. That mistake has been corrected.