Island Aviation Services Ltd. (IAS), the operator of the national carrier Maldivian, would invest in wide-body aircraft to tap in on traffic from key tourism markets, the government has announced. The decision was confirmed by Mohamed Shahyb, the Chief Spokesperson at the President’s Office, following a cabinet meeting.

“The cabinet has resolved to provide the necessary funds for the investment through the financing facilities available to the Ministry of Finance,” Shahyb stated. He further emphasised the immediacy of the plan, adding, “Maldivian is set to acquire the wide-body aircraft shortly.”

Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Mohamed Ameen, in an interview with a local media outlet, said that, “The two wide-body aircraft are set to be leased and will be operational in the near future. The operations of these new aircraft are scheduled to commence within the next six months. Initially, we plan to start operations to three regions in China, Johannesburg in South Africa, and three yet-to-be-decided European destinations.”

This development is significant as the majority of tourists, particularly from Europe, currently travel to the Maldives via connecting flights, primarily through the Middle East, according to the President’s Office. 48% of tourists arrive in the Maldives via connecting flights due to the absence of direct flights from countries with the highest number of visitors, the President’s Office noted.

In an effort to ensure the sustainability of the project, the government has announced plans to lower operational costs. “The cabinet decided to engage in discussions with the Maldives Airports Company Ltd. (MACL) to obtain concessions on jet fuel. Additionally, the cabinet will discuss initiating flight operations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with a particular focus on prioritising flights to destinations in China,” Shahyb stated.

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.

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. Established in 2000, IAS is a 100 percent government-owned company.