The Transport Ministry has revealed that the government would soon decide on private company Villa Group's proposition to upgrade the regional airport operated by the company in ADh. Maamigili to an international airport.
Maamigili Airport was upgraded to an international airport earlier in 2013. However, the airport was downgraded to a domestic airport in 2015 following a change in the government.
Speaking at the Parliament's Oversight Committee on Friday, Transport Minister Aishath Nahula said it would be wise to upgrade domestic airports to international airports at this point of time, and such a change will be beneficial to the country and its economy.
The minister said Villa Air, owned by her husband and renowned businessman Gasim Ibrahim, requested to upgrade the airport it operates in Maamigili to an international airport, and the ministry is assessing the proposal. Although the airport previously accomodated international flights, a second request was made to upgrade the airport after several years of being operated as a domestic airport, notedu the minister.
The minister said the guideline will be followed in assessing the proposal and that it is likely that permission will be issued to upgrade the airport once the country's tourism reopens. The tourism sector is currently at a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview given to AVAS, Managing Director of Villa Air Abdulla Nashid said the airline requested the Civil Aviation Authority to upgrade Maamigili airport and to commence international flights by the company's FlyMe airline on May 9th. Once the tourism sector is re-opened and the required permits are issued, international flights can land at the airport, said Nashid.
"The discussions with the government have been encouraging. Therefore, we hope we will receive the permit in the near future. We believe this step is necessary for the country and its tourism at this time," said Nashid.
Nashid added that the airport's capacity has been increased by 200% compared to its capacity in 2013. The airport now boasts a passenger lounge that can cater up to 120 travelers and an arrival hall has also been developed. Therefore, there would be no setbacks to immediately commencing operation once the permit is received, said Nashid.