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  • Writer's pictureAvaitors Maldives

Why it is essential for TMA to establish wheel based operations?

With a fleet of over 60 DHC6 Twin Otters, Trans Maldivian Airways lead the seaplane industry in the Maldives and continue to maintain its status as the world's largest seaplane operator.

With such dominance over the seaplane market while making significant profits, why does TMA need to establish wheel operations?. The answer is simple, Dominance.

The two methods of passenger travel in Maldives by air are through domestic and seaplane operations. Both operations have advantages and disadvantages over one another. Let’s look at how TMA can widen their operations by acquiring wheel-based aircraft.

Night operations and Efficiency

One of the main disadvantages of seaplane operations is that they are limited to daytime VFR only. Weather in the Maldives generally allows VFR conditions throughout the year however with limitation to day operations only, seaplanes cannot operate during the night.

For various reasons, if flights are delayed beyond daylight hours, they cannot fly passengers until the next morning. TMA can make use of ATR aircraft to operate flights during night hours.

Depending on passenger demand the airline can choose to shift flights between fleets to close that which would be most economical.

Further connectivity

Seaplanes generally operate to resorts between Haa Alif atoll to Thaa Atoll comprising of flights that generally require 20-30 minutes flight time on average.

A seaplane Twin Otter would require nearly 2 hours flight time to reach to resorts in Gaafu atoll region and further. Today tourists arriving in resorts in these atolls are transferred by wheel-based aircraft.

National airline Maldivian regularly operates to southern airports that include Kaadehdhoo, Kooddoo, Maavarulu, Fuvahmulah, and Gan. Manta Air operated temporarily to Kooddoo before halting operations due to COVID19.

ATR operations would allow the airline to provide connectivity all across the Maldives. Maavarulu airport was most recently opened in Gaafu Atoll with an additional airport under development.

Tourism is expected to increase within these atolls and additional air connectivity would be necessary.

Potential International Operations

With the ATR aircraft, the airline can commence international operations linking Maldives to Sri Lanka and India.

National airline Maldivian operates regular flights between these countries. Most recently Villa Air Flyme commenced international operations with the ATR aircraft with interest to acquire Airbus A319s later in 2021.

Competition is high within these routes, specially to Colombo, Sri Lanka with many airlines operating flights on a regular basis before the impact of COVID19. Nonetheless, it is another window for TMA to expand business.

TMA’s parent company Bain Capital purchased Australia’s second-largest airline Virgin Australia in 2020. Virgin Australia has a fleet of 64 aircraft and operates to 45 destinations.


TMA began wheel operations first in 2007 with two ATR 42 type aircraft with plans to add a third. The aircraft were faced multiple maintenance issues and the operations lasted only until 2009 due to losses faced by the operations. The aircraft was sold and TMA remained as an only seaplane operator.

Competition and dominance

Although TMA dominates the seaplane market the airline is limited only to that. Competing airlines Maldivian and Manta Air both have seaplane and wheel aircraft in their fleet.

Although Villa Air Flyme operates only wheel aircraft, the airline is planning to commence seaplane operations. This would leave TMA as the only airline with a single fleet type.

To maintain full dominance over the passenger market it would be necessary for TMA to establish a wheel-based operation.



Feb 23, 2021

I honestly don't understand why nobody ever talks about the market potential these sea plane operations have in terms of connecting local islands instead of just resorts for the most part. I often find myself asking if Maldives is truly that kind of country where you can really benefit a large group by building one (or two) land aerodromes by spending millions on each or a greater good can be achieved with a fairly low cost when you utilise the ocean and sea that's literally 99% of the country and has a more potential for a larger more beneficial market operations? It's a good question to all those many people who have to take a plane ticket to get to…

Feb 23, 2021
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