Locals of Dhaal atoll Kudahuvadhoo came to the streets on Tuesday, after domestic airline Manta Air declined to transport a patient in critical condition to Male'.
The locals had protested on the runway blocking the flight from lift-off, which delayed it by six hours, confirmed the Chief Executive Officer of the airline Mohamed Khaleel.
He further noted that a total of 12 tourists, who were expected to travel from the flight are stranded due to the ongoing protests, which had followed into Wednesday as well.
Earlier on Tuesday, the island's council member Aishath Nasheeda highlighted Manta Air being the sole domestic airline operating to the island. She also stressed on several complaints over the airline declining to transport patients on multiple occasions.
She further claimed of discussing these concerns with senior members of the airline on previous meetings.
The situation erupted on Tuesday afternoon around 1:00 pm, when authorities failed to transport a heart attack patient to Male' City.
Due to rough seas all across the Maldives owing to the southwest monsoon, the most viable transport choice is by air.
Sometime during Tuesday evening, Kudahuvadhoo locals and stormed into the airport venue, blocked entry and exit of vehicles by digging ditches across the airport venue's gates.
Infuriated locals have been chanting to oust the airline's operations from the island following the most recent debacle.
Locals have voiced their demands be met, adding the protests will continue.
A Manta Air official speaking about the incident claimed the ATR aircraft they use lack room to carry patients on stretchers.
However, the airline's official notes that if patients produce verified medical documents attesting they can travel without stretcher-assistance, they will be provided accommodation in the flight.
Manta Air's CEO further noted that the stranded tourists included eight adults and four children, who were left stuck inside the airport venue since 1:30 am on early Wednesday morning until 07:30 am.
The tourists were inbound to Kandima Resort, who were able to reach to the resort via a seaplane transfer on Wednesday morning.
"This gives out a negative message, the government needs to take this into serious consideration," Khaleel comments.
He spoke about communicating with the President of RIU Hotels, who had contacted him to inquire about the safety of the tourists in their properties in the Maldives.
RIU Palace Maldives is situated in the same atoll.
Khaleel further said such acts undermined the popularity and perception of the Maldivian locals and their livelihood in front of global spectators and travel industry stakeholders.
He also confirms that the airline has temporarily halted its flight operations to and from the island as the issue has maintained momentum.
This has led to Kudahuvadhoo airport currently facing a complete halt on its aviation operations.
Manta Air did not have policies on carrying patients on stretchers due to the aircraft they utilize. Khaleel alleged Tuesday evening's protest as a politically motivated conspiracy aimed to instigate anger towards the government.
Generally, national insurance provider Aasandha steps in to transport critical patients via Maldivian Airline from Kudahuvadhoo if and when necessary.
Khaleel highlighted of being made privy to the protest hours after it had erupted, and adds that the prime frustration from the locals were tied to Maldivian airline's non-response.
The airline's official who spoke earlier about the matter, notes that they had received notification of a medical evacuation only after sundown.
The official further claims of contacting Kudahuvadhoo council to discuss on ways to render assistance with the matter.
"Had we been made aware of the situation earlier during the day, we would have been able to arrange transport for the patient via seaplane. One of our employees received a call inquiring for instructions for medical evacuation, but there was no formal request made for it," they commented further.
They also claimed of arranging a seaplane afterwards by removing its seats to accommodate a stretcher, however the patient was carried on a Maldivian flight earlier.
The airline had attempted to replace the seaplane floaters with wheels to facilitate for the patient's transfer, for which they inquired permission from Civil Aviation Authority. However, the airline claims they did not receive a positive update.