Aviation Tourism

Seaplane-resort cooperation perfects art of arrival in the Maldives

Six hundred dollars per person. It’s the average cost of round-trip seaplane transfers between the main airport of the Maldives–Malé’s Velana International and any of more than 100 luxury resorts amongst the Maldives’ 1,100 sand islands dribbled over 510 miles in the Indian Ocean from the southwest tip of India down to the Equator. It’s also an amount that gives pause to travelers considering the destination for vacation; why pay what easily equals another night’s cost at a five-star resort for just the 30- or 40-minute flight transfer?

The value, much like the natural beauty of the Maldives, reveals itself to those who endure the nearly 24 hours of travel to reach Malé and commit to continuing on by seaplane. It’s learning by doing. Once a passenger steps off an inbound international flight to the Maldives and collects baggage, the airline is essentially done with them until it comes time to check-in for the return. Stepping in to wrangle the logistics of that in-between time is the passenger’s resort of choice, whose representatives and contracted handling companies have perfected the transition from immigration to relaxation.

The value is a fully orchestrated experience that transitions guests from exhausted airline passengers to engaged and enthusiastic participants in a journey from international arrivals to seaplane lounge, from seaplane lounge to seaplane, and finally from seaplane to the island bungalow or overwater villa which seemed so interminably distant only a day ago.

The first hint at the unique nature of the Maldives seaplane transfer comes even before a traveler packs their bags. Flights are made by pre-arrangement with the resorts, via email or phone in conjunction with a resort booking weeks before, and not by individual ticket purchase. The two seaplane companies – Maldivian and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) – maintain contracts with the various resort islands and need to know passenger loads and travel plans in advance for flight planning and coordination with resort staff also looking for seats out to the islands from the capital. TMA actually holds the distinction of being the world’s largest seaplane operator, with 48 aircraft and the happy slogan of “Sun, Sand, Sea, and Seaplane.”

 

Related:   Three new properties for the Maldives

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