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Velana Airport expansion opens doors for future growth

The gateway to the Maldives, Velana International Airport (VIA), which is located on Hulhulé Island near the Maldivian capital Malé, is all set for future tourism growth. The airport is undergoing an ambitious redevelopment plan at an estimated cost of between US$800m and US$1bn, with a new runway that is due for completion in the coming months.

Formerly known as Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, the airport was renamed in January 2017, as part of a rebranding exercise to highlight the development and expansion of the airport. In addition to the new runway, which will be able to accommodate the Airbus A380, improvements include a new passenger terminal and a new cargo terminal.

Meanwhile new facilities at the airport will include state-of-the-art baggage handling systems, boarding gates and check-in desks and expanded retail offerings, as well as new navigation equipment, airfield and aerodrome lighting.

A popular holiday destination with its 26 islands, the Maldives reported a 6.8% leap in global tourists arriving in 2017. In line with this growth VIA’s expansion is set to see the airport’s capacity rise from 1 million to 7 million passengers.

As well as being an international exit and entry point for the Maldives, the airport serves as an important hub for domestic traffic. There are currently 12 existing smaller airports across the Maldives, although more are being built each year, and an increasing number of seaplane landing sites.

Two independent seaplane operators fly currently from VIA – Trans Maldivian Airways and Island Aviation services. To accommodate the increasing domestic and seaplane traffic, a new seaplane terminal and floating dock facility, as well as three designated water runways will also feature in the airport’s expansion programme to replace the existing seaplane facilities and ensure efficient seaplane operation.

“The new seaplane terminal will be the centre of day-to-day operations to transfer tourists to and from resorts by seaplanes,” said Adil Moosa, managing director of Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL).

Highlighting the need for improved cargo facilities, Maldives Economic Minister, Mohamed Saeed, also stated that construction of a bigger cargo terminal will open up the gateway for a re-export market in the Maldives.

According to MACL, after the expansion of the cargo terminal about 120,000 tonnes of air cargo is expected to be processed every year through Velana Airport.

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