Island Aviation Services Ltd. (IAS), the operator of the national carrier Maldivian, has issued a request for proposals for a five-year lease of an Airbus A330-200 aircraft, marking a significant step towards expanding its international operations. This strategic move aligns with the government’s initiative to enhance Maldivian’s fleet with wide-body aircraft to capitalise on traffic from key tourism markets.

The deadline for bid registration is 2:30 p.m. local time on 18 January 2024, with the winning bid set to be announced on 10 February 2024.

Under the terms of the lease, Maldivian will obtain the air operator’s certificate (AOC) and aircraft registration while assuming operational responsibilities, including crew members, insurance, fuel, and maintenance costs. IAS anticipates leasing the aircraft by the second quarter of 2024 at the latest.

Earlier this month, the government announced its decision to provide the necessary funds for the investment to IAS through the financing facilities available to the Ministry of Finance. Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Mohamed Ameen revealed in an interview with a local media outlet that the government plans to commence operations of two wide-body aircraft within the next six months. Initial plans include starting operations in three regions in China, Johannesburg in South Africa, and three yet-to-be-decided European destinations, he said.

This development holds significant implications as the majority of tourists, mainly from Europe, currently travel to the Maldives via connecting flights, primarily through the Middle East. Approximately 48 percent of tourists arrive in the Maldives via connecting flights due to the absence of direct flights from countries with the highest number of visitors.

Maldivian had previously operated flights to several destinations in China, which were halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic and have yet to resume. Currently, Maldivian operates flights to Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Bengaluru in India and Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The list price for an Airbus A330-200 is approximately US$238.5 million. In 2023, an aircraft of this model was leased for over US$250,000 per month, according to statistics released by the International Bureau of Aviation (IBA). This implies that IAS will have to pay approximately US$15 million, or MVR231 million, to lease an aircraft for five years.

Maldivian’s current fleet includes two ATR72 aircraft, one ATR42 aircraft, one Airbus 320 aircraft, eight Dash8-300 series aircraft, two Dash8-200 series aircraft, and 11 DHC-6 Twin Otter Aircraft. Maldivian previously operated an Airbus A321 aircraft, which was let go due to high maintenance costs. Established in 2000, IAS is a 100 percent state-owned company.