Maafaru airport lacks capacity to handle international flights

Maafaru International Airport. (File Photo/Sun/Aishath Fareeha Abdulla)

Transport Ministry, on Friday, said the N. Maafaru International Airport does not have the capacity to accommodate international passenger flights.

Transport Ministry officials were summoned for a meeting with the Parliament’s Government Oversight Committee on Friday night.

In response to a question by Manadhoo MP Ahmed Haroon, Minister of State for Transport Ahmed Zuhair said the Maafaru airport was issued a temporary international operations permit.

“Even though you see ‘Maafaru International’ on the nameplate, we have only issued a temporary permit for international operations,” said Zuhair.

Maafaru International Airport. (File Photo/Sun/Ahmed Aushan Ilyas)

The Maafaru airport was opened as an international airport on December 1, 2019. And Haroon had questioned when the airport will begin international passenger flight operations.

Zuhair said the airport was issued the temporary permit solely to handle private jets, and that the airport wasn’t ready to handle international passenger flights.

“The airport’s terminal isn’t ready to handle international flights. Because it lacks an immigration counter, and has no way of separating international passengers from domestic passengers,” he said.

Zuhair said the airport will need to undergo major changes to its interior in order to get ready to handle international flights.

Maafaru International Airport. (File Photo/Sun/Ahmed Aushan Ilyas)

“And looking at the capacity of the terminal, I don’t believe the airport has the capacity to handle both international and domestic operations together at present. It, I believe, is able to handle 100 to 150 passengers at the most. And the smallest international flights which operate to Maldives, A320s, carry 200 passengers. So international operations cannot be permitted until capacity is built. But we will consider requests for ad hoc charters,” he said.

He said that the airport will also be issued a permanent permit to handle private jets once it establishes permanent immigration, customs and health operations at the airport.

“At present, we are ranting permission ad hoc,” said Zuhair.

Maafaru International Airport. (Sun Photo)

Zuhair said the airport needed to fulfill many requirements before it can go fully international, including refueling facilities and emergency healthcare facilities.

“Refueling is very important. There’s no point if flights which land at the airport need to go elsewhere to refuel,” he said.

Zuhair said a timeline on when the facilities will be established will be decided by the operator.

Maafaru airport was funded by Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) – which awarded USD 60 million in non-reimbursable financial aid toward the project - and contracted to Singaporean company, Tuff Offshore. The runway was later enlarged to accommodate Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 aircrafts.

The airport is operated by Island Aviation.