Maafaru airport readies for international operations with in-house coronavirus testing facility

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

Island Aviation, on Wednesday, announced the Maafaru International Airport in N. Atoll will have an in-house coronavirus testing lab and will be ready for international operations when Maldives reopens its borders in July.

Island Aviation’s Managing Director Mohamed Rizvi was summoned for a meeting with the Parliament’s State-owned Enterprises Committee on Wednesday morning.

Speaking at the meeting, Rizvi said that the Maafaru airport’s runway was already large enough to cater to international flights, but that the problem lay with the passenger terminal.

“[When we took over] the layout was more like a domestic terminal. We proposed the necessary changes to relevant authorities after we took over,” he said.

Rizvi said the necessary changes to the terminal will be complete within a week’s time, and that the airport will be ready for international operations when the borders reopen in July.

“The work will be done in a week’s time. And once the work is done, the terminal will be ready for international operations,” he said.

Work is also underway to establish a laboratory to run coronavirus tests at the airport.

The lab is funded by resort chain Soneva Group, and will process PCR tests on tourists who arrive at the Maafaru airport.

Work on the lab is scheduled to be complete on June 25.

Rizvi believes the lab, in addition to ensuring all tourists who come in through the airport are tested for the new coronavirus, will also serve as a promotional tool for the Maldivian tourism industry by bolstering confidence among tourists.

Maafaru International Airport. (Sun Photo)

Additional preparations at Maafaru airport include the installation of thermal cameras, the installation of glass partitions at service counters, and the installation of social distancing markers.

Surrounded by high-end resorts, Maafaru airport had catered to a significant volume of private jets even amid the lockdown.

And Maldivian’s Airbus A321 successfully landed at Maafaru airport on Tuesday, renewing hope for international operations.

“The existing runway has the capacity to cater to maximum 200-passenger flights. We carried people under home quarantine to Mafaafaru on our A321 even yesterday,” said Rizvi.

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, and is scheduled to be further enlarged to accommodate Boing 777 twinjet.