Maldives welcome new services from AirAsia X, Cathay Pacific Airways, flydubai, Korean Air and Tigerair Singapore in the last 12 months

Asia has seen the biggest growth in new services to the Maldives. Apart from AirAsia X (from Kuala Lumpur), Cathay Pacific Airways (from Hong Kong) and Tigerair Singapore (from Singapore), the island airport has also welcomed new services in the last 12 months from Hong Kong Airlines and Korean Air.

After a controversial interlude (2010-2012) when it was run by Indian-based GMR, Ibraham Nasir International Airport serving Malé in the Maldives, is once again a 100% state-owned airport, operated by the Maldives Airport Company Ltd (MACL). Traffic appears to be booming at the airport with schedule data for January showing a 20% increase compared with this time last year. This year has already seen the launch of new non-stop flights from Singapore with Tigerair Singapore while last year saw the arrival of several new carriers.

Sri Lanka still leads UAE among international destinations

Examining the airport’s network of scheduled services reveals that Sri Lanka is the leading country market with SriLankan Airlines operating up to five daily flights using widebody aircraft. Other carriers such as British Airways (thrice-weekly) and Emirates (daily), operate from their home bases to the Maldives and then on to Colombo. The opposite applies to newcomer Korean Air, which serves the Maldives from Seoul Incheon via Colombo.

Ibraham Nasir International Airport (MLE) Leading country markets - weekly one-way seat capacity (Weekly departures)

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 6 January 2014

A busy year for new services in 2013

After re-taking ownership of the airport and its operations at the end of 2012, MACL appears to have been extremely proactive (and successful) in attracting new airlines to serve the Maldives since the beginning of 2013. A chronological summary of events is given below.

  • 19 January 2013: flydubai launches non-stop daily 737-800 flights from Dubai (DXB) competing against Emirates.
  • 9 March 2013: Korean Air introduces thrice-weekly A330-300 flights from Seoul Incheon (ICN) via Colombo to Malé.
  • 14 April 2013: British Airways extends its thrice-weekly 777 service from London Gatwick (LGW) to Malé on to Colombo (CMB).
  • 10 July 2013: Hong Kong Airlines begins daily A330-200 flights from Hong Kong (HKG) competing with Mega Maldives Airlines.
  • 8 September 2013: Maldivian starts twice-weekly service to Thimarafushi (TMF), a new airport in the Maldives.
  • 28 September 2013: AirAsia X launches A330 flights to Colombo (CMB) from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) via Malé, and flights to Malé from Kuala Lumpur via Colombo.
  • 27 October 2013: Cathay Pacific Airways makes Malé its first new destination since December 2012 when it begins four weekly non-stop flights from Hong Kong (HKG).
  • 30 October 2013: Transaero Airlines moves its flights from Moscow Domodedovo (DME) to Moscow Vnukovo (VKO).
  • 24 January 2014: Tigerair Singapore arrives in the Maldives with four weekly A320 flights from Singapore (SIN) competing with Singapore Airlines.

A total of six new airlines (AirAsia X, Cathay Pacific, flydubai, Hong Kong Airlines, Korean Air and Tigerair Singapore) have been persuaded to start new services since the beginning of 2013, while other carriers have increased frequency and/or capacity. All three MEB3 carriers are present in the Maldives with Emirates offering double-daily flights from Dubai, and Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways both flying daily.

Western European market declining?

Much of the airport’s growth in 2013 has come from Asia, while the European market has seen little development. The UK market fell by one-third in 2012 from 152,000 to just over 100,000 while in the first six months of 2013 passenger numbers fell by almost 50% (Source: UK CAA). Other carriers from western Europe serving the Maldives include Austrian Airlines (from Vienna), Condor (from Frankfurt), Meridiana (from Milan Malpensa) and Thomson Airways (from London Gatwick).

Local carriers provide inter-island services, and routes to China

There are two main local airlines in the Maldives. Maldivian has been the name since 2008 of the local domestic and regional airline, which currently operates a fleet of six Dash 8s as well as a single A320 for use on flights to Bangladesh, China and India. From Malé the airline serves a total of eight domestic routes ranging in sector length from 114 kilometres to 673. The modestly named Mega Maldives Airlines, which celebrated its third birthday in late December, currently offers non-stop flights to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, using a mix of a single 757 and two 767s.

Mega Maldives Airlines advert for their new ICAO designator LV.

Mega Maldives Airlines’ CEO is George Weinmann, a former Boeing engineer and native of New Orleans. Last year the airline, which operates two 767s and one 757, changed its ICAO designator to LV, which was previously used by Albanian Airlines before it ceased trading at the end of 2011.



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