Russian Airline Azur Air resumed scheduled flight operations for Maldives on Saturday.
A total of 500 tourists arrived aboard Azur Air's first flight, representing the highest number of passengers to land on a single flight following the reopening of Maldives' borders on July 15.
While regular flights were halted after Maldives temporarily halted the issuance of on-arrival visas on March 27 in order to control the COVID-19 pandemic, Azur Air's decision to restart operations was finalised in response to high tourist demand within the Russian market.
The airline revealed that one weekly flight would be scheduled for Maldives from this point onward. This number is expected to increase in the future.
Earlier on November 17, Azur Air commenced operating chartered flights to Maldives.
According to statistics publicised by the Ministry of Tourism, the Russian market accounted for the highest number of tourist arrivals after the reopening of borders, with a total of 14,855 arrivals recorded.
Minister of Tourism Abdulla Mausoom previously revealed that the number of airlines operating flights to Maldives would increase to 18 by the end of November
Maldives reopened its borders to international passengers on July 15, after nearly four months since the state halted issuing on-arrival visas on March 27. Guesthouses were permitted to resume operations and kick start local tourism on October 15.
Despite the lifting of restrictions, Maldives has noted a significant reduction in tourist arrivals compared to pre-COVID figures. While a total of 382,760 tourists were recorded before borders were closed in March, the latest figures show that tourist arrivals have only exceeded 50,000 since July 15.
Earlier, Minister of Tourism Abdulla Mausoom also expressed hopes for the industry's recovery, estimating that 100,000 tourists would visit Maldives before the end of 2020. The tourism ministry expects a total of 500,000 arrivals for the year.