South African Airlines on Sunday inaugurated scheduled direct flights travelling from Johannesburg, South Africa to Gan, Addu Atoll.
The maiden flight, A340 was welcomed by Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Aishath Nahula and Addu Atoll's Mayor Abdulla Sodiq, and Hussain Afeef from KASA Holdings, the company that owns Gan International Airport as well as Parliament Speaker MP Qasim Ibrahim.
Passengers who arrived were given a red carpet welcome with special traditional dances.
With this, South African Airlines follows Sri Lankan Airlines in becoming the second international airline to start direct flights to Gan International Airport.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, one flight per week is scheduled. The ministry estimated that about 300 tourists will visit Maldives from South Africa per week.
Additionally, the ministry has planned to give the opportunity to import and exports goods between the two destinations with this new route. Each flight can carry up to 20 tonnes of goods.
A number of goods are exported to Maldives from Africa, including meats and vegetables.
Speaking at the ceremony, Minister Nahula dubbed the new beginning is a great progress for the economy and aviation in the south.
Mayor Sodiq said that these flights would enable the local fisheries industry to expand, and promote local tourism as well.
Prior to this, tourists from Africa have to travel 12 hours to reach Maldives. This has been cut down to seven hours with the introduction of direct flights to Gan.
According to the tour operator in charge, 'Air Tour Operators', Addu caters to many facilities required by tourists flying to this destination. They further highlight African Airways being a world renowned airline and that the introduction of these flights gives access to passengers and tourists from all over the world to visit Maldives.