Business as usual for Maldives travel industry despite ash disrupting flights in Europe

European flight services to and from the Maldives have not been impacted by the release of volcanic ash from Iceland into the local atmosphere with business continuing as normal today, according to staff at Male’ International Airport.

The BBC reported that some 700 flights had been cancelled across Germany today over safety concerns concerning a buildup of ash in parts of European airspace that originated from Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano.  The report added that the situation is reported to already been returning to normal.

Last April, an eruption from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano created a thick cloud of volcanic ash that grounded days of flights across Europe and Scandinavia. The ash impacted a number of the world’s leading airlines and their services to the Maldives, leaving tourists stranded in the country for days in some cases.

However, officials at Male’ International Airport said that the latest volcanic eruption occurring in Iceland this week had not at present had any severe impacts on arrival or departure schedules at the airport – claims that were shared by a number of airlines.

Speaking to Minivan News a spokesperson for British Airways, which operates  direct flights from London to the Maldives, said the airline had experienced only a minor number of interruptions to its flights on certain services to Scotland and parts of northern Germany.

“At present we have not been made aware of any potentially significant impacts [from the ash] on our flight schedules,” the spokesperson added.

Darrell Soertsz, District Manager for Emirates’ operations in the Maldives, said services between Europe and the Maldives had similarly been untroubled.

“So far things have been operating normally and we certainly hope to keep things that way,” he said.

Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa said she had not been fully informed of the exact impacts of travel disruptions, if any, to the country’s tourism industry.

Dr Zulfa added that the industry had suffered last year following difficulties with volcanic ash in European airspace. Nonetheless she said it was her belief that tourism in the country was strong enough to overcome any possible difficulties that could result from the latest eruption.

“Any possible flight disruptions will of course have an impact on tourism,” she said. “Overall [last year’s] eruptions were a major hassle for the country. However, as is always the case, resort operators and other members of the industry will work together to find solutions and these solutions will be found.”

Speaking to Minivan News last year whilst the Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption bought European Airspace to a standstill, ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) said the cancellation of flights highlighted the vulnerability of the country’s tourism industry to outside forces.

Sim said the most important thing to note from the situation was “how vulnerable and dependent we are on external influences” and how much “incidents that we can’t control” affect the industry.

He claimed that the eruptions had not been such a huge problem for resorts at the time, but noted people were not happy about the developments that left passengers stranded in the Maldives as well as all over the world. “Obviously, we are doing the best we can. The situation is very difficult to manage.”

Sim said although some resorts had taken the flight cancellations “very seriously and responsibly,” others did not do as much as they could to ensure their guests were kept as “happy and comfortable” as possible under the circumstances.

“There is very little we can do,” he said at the time. “There is no way anyone can leave or come [to the country].”