German national carrier Deutsche Lufthansa AG is to start scheduled flights to the Maldives from December 2015.
Plans to start the flights by Europe’s largest airline were revealed at a special ceremony held yesterday (January 8 ) at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) by Maldives Airports Company Limited’s (MACL) Managing Director ‘Bandu’ Ibrahim Saleem.
Speaking at the ceremony, local media reported Saleem as saying that Lufthansa will be operating flights to the Maldives starting from December 9 this year, and that these flights will provide many benefits to the tourism industry.
Aviation website ch-aviation.com reported that the flights are part of a “jump” network project by Lufthansa, with the Maldives, Mauritius, and Mexico the initial destinations.
Also speaking at the ceremony, Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb said one of the biggest aims of nationalising INIA was to bring bigger airlines into the Maldives, adding that 2014 had been one of the best years for Maldives tourism.
INIA was leased out to Indian Infrastructure giant GMR under a US$500 million contract in 2010 before the following government deemed the deal ‘void ab-initio’ in 2012. GMR have subsequently won an arbitration case leaving the Government of Maldives liable for an amount that could reach up to US$803 million.
“Lufthansa airline is one of the top airlines in Europe. They have previously operated some charter flights to the Maldives, but this is the first time they will be starting scheduled flights,” local media reported Adeeb as saying.
Adeeb also said that one of the most prominent requests made by European tourists is to set up more direct flights to the Maldives without having to transit in the Middle East, and that the request would be addressed by Lufthansa flying to the Maldives directly from Frankfurt, Germany.
According to the tourism ministry, 527,274 European tourists landed in the Maldives last year – amounting to 47 percent of total arrivals. The European airline with the most arrivals was Turkish Airlines with 33,303 arrivals followed by British Airways with 25,798 arrivals.
The industry received a record-breaking of 1.2 million in 2014.
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