Malé Velana International Airport, the main international airport in the Maldives, has extended the minimum time between landings for international flights, resulting in the cancellation of a large number of slots, according to an announcement by Edelweiss Air (WK, Zurich).

In an aeronautical circular valid until March 31, 2022, the Maldives Airports Company has also warned airlines of possible delays and diversion of flights due to congestion at the airport during operational peak hours resulting from ongoing civil works to upgrade the airport’s capacity. Operators have been advised to have enough fuel for at least 45 minutes of holding. The company also warned airlines to strictly follow slot times as there is limited parking space. Preference would be given to aircraft arriving on schedule, it said.

The slot changes have impacted Edelweiss, which has announced changes to its winter flight schedule for 2021/22 from Zurich. Due to the capacity reduction at Malé Airport, the Swiss leisure carrier will no longer be able to fly to Malé on Mondays and Thursdays as planned, but has added new flights on Sundays and Fridays, the latter via Colombo Int'l (Sri Lanka). Its Saturday flight will not be affected.

The adjustments will have a domino effect on other destinations as well. One of two weekly Edelweiss flights each has had to be adjusted:

  • Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar (Tanzania) will be now be served on Tuesdays and Thursdays (instead of Fridays);
  • Cape Town (South Africa) flights will operate on Wednesdays and Mondays (instead of Sundays); and
  • Colombo will now be served on Fridays in combination with Malé, instead of on Thursdays.

“Like other airlines, we were surprised by the news that there are fewer slots available in Malé. Despite intervention, including on a political level, we were unable to find another solution,” commented Edelweiss’s chief commercial officer, Patrick Heymann.

According to the ch-aviation capacities module, the ten airlines with the biggest market share at Malé Airport in terms of weekly seat capacity are Emirates; Maldivian; Qatar Airways; IndiGo Airlines; SriLankan Airlines; Turkish Airlines; Go First; Aeroflot; Manta Air; and Saudia.

The current USD1 billion upgrade of Malé Velana Airport includes the construction of a new international terminal building capable of handling 7.8 million passengers annually, which is scheduled for completion in 2022. An expanded west apron was inaugurated on November 4, 2021, sporting nine aircraft stands for domestic and international flights.

The development also includes a new seaplane terminal building, a VVIP building, connecting roads, seaplane docks, a Maintenance and Repair Organisation (MRO), and fuel facilities constructed by China’s Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG).