South African Airlines has officially commenced direct flights travelling from Johannesburg, South Africa to Gan, Addu Atoll on Sunday.
The Inaugural A340 flight was welcomed by Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Aishath Nahula and Addu Atoll's Mayor Abdulla Sodiq, and Hussain Afeef from KASA Holdings, the company that owns Gan International Airport as well as Parliament Speaker MP Qasim Ibrahim.
Passengers who arrived were given a red carpet welcome with special traditional dances.
South African Airlines is the second international airline to start direct flights to Gan International Airport. One flight per week is scheduled and the Ministry of Tourism estimated that about 300 tourists will visit the Maldives from South Africa per week.
As a number of goods are exported to the Maldives from Africa, including meats and vegetables, the Ministry of Tourism has planned to give the opportunity to import and exports goods between the two destinations with this new route. Each flight can carry up to 20 tonnes of goods.
Prior to this, tourists from Africa have to travel 12 hours to reach the Maldives. This has been cut down to seven hours with the introduction of direct flights to Gan.
According to the tour operator in charge, 'Air Tour Operators', Addu caters to many facilities required by tourists flying to this destination. They further highlight African Airways being a world-renowned airline and that the introduction of these flights gives access to passengers and tourists from all over the world to visit the Maldives.
Gan International Airport is located on the island of Gan in Addu Atoll (previously known as Seenu Atoll) in the Maldives and was once an important base of the Royal Air Force of Great Britain and played a big role during the 2nd World War.
It was originally built by the British as a staging post for its RAF during the 1950s and was handed over to the Maldivian Government in 1976 with almost an equivalent of an ICAO code 4D airstrip comprising of then state of the art equipment and facilities.
Recently the airport was upgraded to international standards and has made three top-tier resorts, Equator Village, Shangri-las Villinigili Resort & Spa and Canaries Resort Maldives easily accessible from the airport.