Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), which operates Maldives’ national airport Velana International Airport (VIA), expects to see 10 daily international flights when the country reopens its borders next month.
MACL officials were summoned for a meeting with the Parliament’s State-owned Enterprises Committee on Sunday afternoon.
Speaking at the meeting, MACL’s Terminal Manager Ibrahim Hussain said 10 international airlines have reserved slots with VIA in preparation of the reopening of Maldives’ borders.
This includes many of the top tourist carriers to Maldives.
Ibrahim Hussain said SriLankan Airlines has requested permission for three daily flights, and Qatar Airways for one daily flight starting July 1.
And starting July 15, Emirates Airlines has requested to hold one daily flight, Etihad Airways has requested to hold two weekly flights, Hong Kong Airlines has requested hold two weekly flights, IndiGo has requested to hold two daily flights, Singapore Airlines has requested to hold one daily flight, Silk Air has requested to hold two daily flights, Turkish Airlines has requested to hold two daily flights five days a week.
While MACL expects to resume operations with 10 daily international flights, domestic flight operations are expected to fall within the range of 15 to 20 daily flights.
“We expect flight movements to be three times lower than during peak season,” said Terminal Manager Ibrahim Hussain.
MACL’s Acting Managing Director Moosa Solih said that airlines which had operated to Maldives prior to the closure of the country’s borders did not wish to surrender their slots.
“The airlines are waiting for us to announce a date. This will proceed once a date is finalized. This must be decided at the national level,” said Moosa Solih.
The physical distancing measures which will be in place at the airport will cut down the number of passengers who can be catered to at any given time by nearly half.
Moosa Solih said that where VIA’s international arrivals terminal had previously catered to 1,000 passengers at any given time, the preventive measures will cut down the number to 570.
Similarly, the capacity of the international departures terminal will be cut from 1,200 to 750 passengers.
98 PERCENT DROP IN REVENUE
Maldives had suspended the issuance of on-arrival visas and closed its borders on March 27. Acting MD Moosa Solih said that while MACL had begun the year with significantly higher earnings compared to the previous year, revenue had plummeted starting February.
The company faced a 98 percent drop in its revenue in May.
“Revenue began to fall in February. This continued through April and by the end of May, our revenue fell by 98 percent,” said Moosa Solih.
The company began cutting down its expenditure to ease the financial burden in February.
“We began cutting our expenditure in February. We have halted all capital expenditure except for those pertaining to the airport development project,” he said.
MACL has cut down all its recurrent expenditures expect for the payroll, cutting its utility bills by 15 percent.
8,000 INTERNATIONAL PASSENGERS AFTER BORDER CLOSURE
Since the closure of the country’s borders on March 27, the VIA handled some 8,000 international passengers; 7,000 passengers who departed Maldives on repatriation flights, and 1,000 passengers who arrived in Maldives on repatriation flights.
MD Moosa Solih said VIA had continued to see international flight movements even with the closure of the borders.
“We have had international flight operations every day, except for one. We see five or six international movements per day,” he said.
MACL’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer Ahmed Fayaz said the company already had protocols in place to govern its operations in health emergencies even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and already had a month’s stock of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
“And we are also prepared to face the possibility of an additional emergency during the new normal,” he said.
MACL is one of the biggest revenue generators for the State. The loss of revenue from the aviation and tourism sector of the country has resulted in a severe impact on the country’s economy.