A new record of 531 seaplane departures and arrivals was handled on February 3 by the country’s main water aerodrome at Velana International Airport. The previous record was 517 seaplane movements on December 23, 2018.
Seaplane is the preferred mode of transport between the main Velana International Airport and dozens of resorts, especially those located in outer atolls.
Two airlines handle seaplane operations: flagship carrier Maldivian and privately run Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA). A third operator Manta Air is set to begin service this year.
TMA, which is controlled by a consortium led by US-based Bain Capital and Chinese conglomerate Tempus Group, operates an all-amphibian fleet of more than 50 aircraft, making it the largest seaplane operator in the world. Maldivian has a fleet of 13 seaplanes and serves over 10 resorts.
The seaplane operators are investing heavily in expanding their operations, especially their fleet. The expansion comes in line with growing tourist arrivals and increasing bed capacity due to the opening of dozens of new resorts in the Maldives.
A new seaplane terminal is being developed on reclaimed lagoon behind the air traffic control tower on the eastern side of the airport island of Hulhule’. The new terminal will sit on 18,000 square metres of reclaimed land and the accompanying seaplane hanger will be built on an additional 14,000 square metre reclaimed land.
The terminal, which is expected to be operational by the end of 2019, is part of a USD 800 million mega project to expand and upgrade the Maldives’ main gateway to cater to at least seven million passengers per annum.
Meanwhile, Velana International Airport witnessed a record number of flight movements in late December. The airport also welcomed a record 83 private jets in the last week of 2018, as celebrities and travellers from around the world flocked to the island nation for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
December to April is considered the peak tourist season, as these months constitute summers in Maldives. Between December and April, the islands boast of dry weather, making it ideal for tourists to travel and enjoy the tropical environment.