Maldivian, the national carrier of Maldives, will soon start direct flights between Male and New Delhi from April or May next year as part of a plan to connect the major cities of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries with the island nation. “We have begun direct flights from Male to Chennai and Mumbai and to Dhaka from Chennai in the last two days with the Airbus A-320 aircraft joining our fleet. The aim is to commence flights to New Delhi with the second A-320 that is to join the fleet by April or May,” Airline Chairman Bandhu Ibrahim Saleem told The Hindu .

Mr. Saleem said the airline would initially operate three flights a week to New Delhi, similar to the frequency of flights now being operated to Mumbai and Chennai. The services to these cities would be increased once the fleet strength goes up.

Maldivian’s direct flights would help tackle the issue of flight timings, Mr. Saleem said. The services operated by other carriers were not tourist-friendly.

“We hope to overcome this with our daytime direct flights. We are hopeful of making our presence felt in the sub-continent. At the same time, we are trying to encourage Maldivian nationals to come to India,” he said.

The airline would also operate from the two regional airports — Raa Atoll and Thaa Atoll — that would be commissioned next year as part of the attempt to make travel hassle-free for Maldivians within the country.

Mr. Saleem said the government had in principle agreed to operate D 8 300 aircraft from Haninadhoo airport to Thiruvananthapuram from next year.

This would help reduce the time taken for travel as a flight would reach Thiruvananthapuram from Haninadhoo airport in just 45 minutes whereas from Ibrahim Nazir International Airport, it would take 55 minutes. It would also help 1000-odd Indian citizens working in northern Maldives to save not only time but also around Rs.2000.

The Male-Thiruvananthapuram-Male sector would also have the newly inducted A-320 making seven weekly flights, Mr. Saleem said. The new service would increase seat capacity to 304, which was just 50 till now.

Stating that Thiruvananthapuram was a focus area, Mr. Saleem said 3,000 Maldivians were in the State capital contributing $ 100,000 per day to the economy. Middle class families preferred Thiruvananthapuram for medical treatment, education and shopping though Chennai was gaining popularity for medical treatment.