Maldivian to start flights to three new Chinese destinations

Maldives’ national carrier Maldivian has announced that it will be starting flights to three new Chinese destinations in February.

A tweet from the airline revealed that the it will be operating flights to Nanjing City, Xi’an, and Changsha.

Maldivian already operates two flights to the cities of Chengdu and Woohan, while also operating flights to Trivandrum and Chennai in India, and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

The Chinese tourism market is the fastest growing in the world, with Chinese tourists now representing over 30 percent of all visitors to the Maldives.


Maldives signs MoU permitting flights to Saudi Arabia

Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on strengthening air transport between Saudi Arabia and the Maldives, Maldivian airlines are now permitted to fly to Saudi Arabia.

The MoU was signed during a meeting between the Maldives’ Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim and the Saudi Arabian General Authority of Civil Aviation’s vice president during Nazim’s official trip to Jeddah in January .

The Defence Ministry informed local media that, with the signing of the MoU, flights from both countries are now permitted to fly to one other. They stated that 14 flights a week are now allowed to fly from the Maldives to Jeddah, Riyadh, and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

According to the ministry, the national airline Maldivian, as well as private carrier Mega Maldives has expressed interest in holding flights to Saudi Arabia.


Air Asia X to commence flights between Maldives and Malaysia

Air Asia X, marketed as a “low cost, long-haul carrier”, is to begin operating flights between Kuala Lumpur, Male’ and Colombo later this month.

Starting from September 28, Air Asia X will offer four weekly flights to Male’ and Colombo from the Malaysian capital.

Ahead of the service being launched, the airline has also announced a special introductory rate of MYR219 (US$65) for one-way economy class travel to the Maldives. A premium service between Kuala Lumpur and Male’ is also available from MYR959 (US$296).

“Male’ is interesting to visit mainly for a taste of Maldivian life more than for its inherent wealth of things to see and do. Guests will find that this is a place for the -pleasant and pleasingly quirky – its bars and restaurants jostle with its incredible array of shops and lively markets with the general hubbub of a capital,” stated the company.

“This is a chance to get a real feel for the Maldives, what makes its people tick and to meet Maldivians on an equal footing.”

In July, Cathay Pacific Airways announced it would be launching services between the Maldives and Hong Kong from October 2013.

The airline said at the time that its flight services to and from the Maldives on its Airbus A330-300 aircraft were expected to begin from October 27, 2013 – pending government approval.


Cathay Pacific Airways to commence Maldives to Hong Kong service from October

Cathay Pacific Airways has announced it will begin operating services between the Maldives and Hong Kong from October this year.

In a statement issued today, the airline said flight services to and from the Maldives on its Airbus A330-300 aircraft were expected to begin from October 27, 2013 – pending government approval.

The company claimed that the launch would extent its services within the Indian subcontinent, while boosting leisure travel between the Maldives and the Far East – a growing tourism market in recent years.

From the service’s launch, Cathay Pacific Airways has said flights will be operating between Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in Male’ and Hong Kong every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.


Maldivian will begin flights to China in June

Maldivian airlines will begin flights to China beginning June 23, reports local media.

Managing Director of Island Aviation Services Abdul Haarish signed the agreement on behalf of Maldivian with the President of the Chinese travel company Chengdu Universal International Travel Service (CUITS).

Maldivian’s first flight destination in China will be Chongqing City, Haarish told local media.

“Maldivian cannot neglect prominent tourism markets, such as China,” Haarish said.

Marketing studies conducted prior to signing the agreement with CUITS predicted “reasonable financial gain from the venture”, according to Haarish.

Under the agreement, Maldivian will act as the operating carrier, while CUITS will handle all marketing responsibilities.

Maldivian will conduct two flights to China weekly, on aircraft providing 14 business class seats, 18 premier seats, and 120 economy class seats, explained Haarish.

CUITS’s President told local media he believes the new venture with Maldivian has a “bright future” and if “all goes well” CUITS will work toward broadening the business.


Air India reduces Maldives-Bangalore services until end of August

Air India has announced it is cutting the number of weekly services it runs between Bangalore and the Maldives to four return journeys until the end of August, according to media reports.

The Business Line publication yesterday reported that the company will be running the four services on Mondays, Wednesdays Fridays and Sunday until August 31. Air India had been operating daily flights between the two destinations.


Qatar flight delayed in payment dispute over ground handling charges

A Qatar flight scheduled to fly to Doha on Sunday night was refused permission to depart Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) following the airline’s ongoing refusal to pay increased ground handling charges.

The move came after the airline’s CEO Akbar Al Baker last week was recently reported as stating that Qatar would re-consider flying to the Maldives if airport operator GMR insisted on a 51 percent increase in ground handling charges.

“If we or any other major player withdraws services because of these unwarranted and draconian measures, it will be the people of the Maldives who will lose out, affecting their livelihoods as they rely heavily on the tourism industry,” Al Baker said.

Minivan News reported yesterday that GMR had requested that Qatar pay cash for the day’s flights.

INIA CEO Andrew Harrison told Minivan News today that the flight had been refused permission to depart due to the airline’s lack of payment of the revised charges.

The flight was delayed an hour and 20 minutes, he said, before GMR allowed it to depart “on compassionate grounds. There were women and children on board and passengers with international connections to make, who were being inconvenienced through no fault of their own,” he said.

Minivan News understands that GMR is currently in talks with several airlines regarding back payment of the increased charges. The company has said it will release a formal statement later in the week.

“MACL (Maldives Airport Company Limited) announced the revised charges in February 2010, after 14 years without increases,” Harrison said. “The charges are still below those for the same aircraft sizes at other airports in the region.”

MACL’s revised charges came into effect on 1 November 2010, Harrison explained. “They had an obligation to give six months notice, and they gave nine. We took over on 25 November. We included [the revised charges] as part of our business and revenue.”

Qatar’s Country Manager for the Maldives Sayed Mohammad Tariq said the matter was being dealt with at head office level by the airline’s senior management.

“Qatar’s CEO made his position very clear. We have nothing to say at station level,” he told Minivan News.

Morning and evening flights on Monday were cancelled. However Tariq said no decision had been made to cancel future flights which remained in the airline’s booking system.

The airline was today taking care of passengers affected by the payment dispute, he said. “We are taking care of all passengers and putting them on other flights.”


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].”


Etihad Airways to launch daily flights Male’-Abu Dhabi

Etihad Airways has said it will launch daily return flights between Male’ and Abu Dhabi from November 1, using Airbus A320 aircraft.

The airline’s Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said that strong visitor numbers in the premium resort destination had prompted the airline to introduce the new route, subject to government approval, to coincide with the start of the busy European winter season.

“We expect the services will appeal to UAE leisure travellers, as well as customers from our major European markets, particularly with the strong connectivity options on offer and following the additional frequencies that will come online on a number of our key European routes this summer,” he said.

Overnight flights in both directions would allow travellers an extra day in the Maldives, he said.