A test flight from the national airline Maldivian landed Thursday morning at the newly-built domestic airport on the southern island of Kudahuvadhoo in Dhaalu atoll.
Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer, Kudahuvadhoo MP Ahmed Amir, Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan and Abdul Haris, managing director of the state-owned Island Aviation company, flew on the maiden flight to the ‘Dhaalu airport.’
The entourage, which also included senior officials of the civil aviation authority, was greeted by dozens of Kudahuvadhoo islanders.
Test flight lands in Dh. Kudahuvadhoo today at 09:27hrs pic.twitter.com/WOvJpODsnb
— Ministry of Tourism (@TourismMv) June 1, 2017
Scheduled flights from Maldivian are expected to begin within a week, according to state media.
The airport project was awarded to Reollo Investment by the previous government in 2013. It was developed at a cost of US$20 million with a 1,800-metre runway built on more than 62 hectares of reclaimed land.
The Kudahuvadhoo airport is reportedly the first domestic airport in the country that can accommodate private jets in addition to the 42 ATR or Dash-8 aircraft used for domestic air travel.
The airport is managed by Dhaalu Airport Holdings, a subsidiary of the Reollo Investments, which financed the airport construction. The Malé-based company was awarded a nearby island for resort development as part of the airport deal.
The Kandima Maldives resort, a 20-minute boat ride from the airport, opened last month.
As domestic flights are cheaper than seaplane transfers, the airport is expected to boost tourism in the southern atoll, which includes the high-end luxury resorts Sun Aqua Vilu Reef, Angsana Velavaru and PER AQUUM Niyama.
The Maldives now has 12 airports, including three international airports and eight domestic airports in Haa Dhaal, Raa, Baa, Alif Dhaal, Thaa, Laamu, Gaaf Alif, Gaaf Dhaal and Gnaviyani atolls.
In March, the government awarded a US$57.5 million project to Malaysia’s Gryphon Energy Corporation to build domestic airports on the islands of Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaal atoll, Funadhoo in Shaviyani atoll, Nilandhoo in Faafu atoll, and Maavarulu and Faresmaathoda in Gaaf Dhaal atoll.
Tourism Minister Zameer told the press then that new regional airports will be needed when the expansion of the Velana International Airport to cater to more than seven million passengers annually is complete.
The majority of tourist resorts in the Maldives are located in the central atolls or “seaplane zone” near Malé. But more resorts are now under development in far-flung atolls.
Some 1.3 million tourists visited the Maldives last year. The government says the VIA expansion is necessary to accommodate large jets and increase passenger capacity fivefold in order to address bottlenecks in the economy.