Prominent businessman and Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim has opened the Maldives first ever private airport in Alif Dhaal atoll Maamigili with his own 'Flyme' airlines starting operations today.
The first commercial 'Flyme' flight from Male to Maamigili took off at 7.15am with 16 tourists, Gasim, his family and senior officials of Villa on board.
Speaking to Haveeru at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport before the departure, Gasim described the maiden flight as just the beginning.
"There are several things to be done still but I am very happy today as the dreams of many in Maamigili have been fulfilled today," he said.
Gasim said the idea of an airport was proposed to the government in 1993 and the successive establishment of the airport came along with a massive amount of help from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industries (MATI).
Gasim stressed that more aircrafts will be brought in order to extend the airline's operations to Gaaf Dhaal atoll Kaadehdhoo and Seenu atoll Gan. Private jet parking spaces are available at the airport, he added.
"It is my dream to begin international flights as well but there is a lot to do before that can be achieved. This has also been made possible through my hard work over the years," he said.
The Maamigili MP said work on the airport was delayed as huge investments were made to store oil and gas in Thilafushi along with building factories for Island Enterprises and Horizon Fisheries.
"Work on Island Enterprises, Horizon Investments and Thilafushi had to be completed within or around the same time. The airport was built using a US$10 million loan from the Bank of Maldives (BML) and money received from the company’s cash flow," he explained.
He said his efforts to operate domestic flights through Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), in which he earlier held a 50 percent share, failed as the aircrafts brought were not suitable for the purpose.
"I tried to make the feat successful but the planes brought to use in the company's operations were not suitable. If the plane was full of passengers there was no space to accommodate the luggage and many more difficulties arose," he said.
Andrew Harrison, CEO of GMR, which manages the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, welcomed the new airline and assured as much as assistance required.
"We have prepared ourselves for the day 'Flyme' airlines begin their flights. We're also working on developing our domestic terminal. We're further developing the airport along the lines of preferences of airlines," he said.
Despite the commencement of flights and operating 10 scheduled flights today, 'Flyme' airlines did not disclose the ticket prices.
The airline uses two aircrafts with each having a capacity of 46 passengers.