Maldives hits-back at German Amb over airline claim

Maldives airports operator on Friday hit-back at the German Ambassador to the archipelago over claims that big airline carriers would suspend Maldives flights as a result of the ongoing political turmoil in the country.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had declared state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.

As the state of emergency approached its final hours, the country's criminal court remanded the suspects until the end of their respective trials which otherwise would have forced authorities to release them after the emergency state ends.

German Ambassador to Maldives Joern Rohde alleged that despite the end of state of emergency "democratic rights remain curtailed as MPs remain jailed on politically motivated prosecutions," adding that the people and the economy would suffer "since tourists continue to stay away."

"As a consequence, we hear big airline carriers from Europe will suspend their Maldives flight for the summer season."

In response to the ambassador's claims, Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) said no airline had thus far informed of plans to suspend flights to the Maldives.

"We haven't received anything of that sort thus far. But there have been very few cancelled flights," a MACL official told AVAS on Friday.

The official added that contrary to the negative reports, Air France had actually planned to increase flights to the tropical island destination.

"Earlier Air France was scheduled to operate until end of March. But now they've extended it until end of April," the official said.

"Summer season in Europe would normally lead to major airlines cutting back on flights or in some cases even suspending them for the season because there would be less tourists travelling on holiday. That's normal and we've seen this every year during the summer season."

The tourism industry severely hit with declining occupancy over the state of emergency.

In addition to China, several countries including India, US, Europe, UK have issued varying degrees of travel advisories to their citizens following the turmoil in the luxury tropical island destination.

The industry had warned that the state of emergency could cost the country millions.

Despite the stark travel advisories, official tourism statistics show that 286,637 tourists had holidayed in the Maldives by the end of February. Over 20 percent of the total was from China which is a 38 percent increase from the same period last year.

Europe however dominated tourist arrivals making up 54 percent.