Gan International Airport, the former British air base in the south of the Maldives, has welcomed its first international commercial flights.
SriLankan Airlines has launched a new direct service connecting Gan with Colombo, providing travellers to the Maldives’ southern islands with faster connections to their holiday resorts.
Gan is the most populated island in Addu Atoll and home to Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, among other luxury retreats. Until now, tourists had to fly into Male, the Maldivian capital further north, before catching an internal flight south.
Services commenced on 1 December 2016 and will now run four times a week. Flights will depart Colombo every Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 0701 and arrive at Gan at 0820. The return services then leave at 0905 and arrive back in Sri Lanka’s capital city at 1125.
Speaking to Travel Daily recently, SriLankan Airlines’ chairman, Ajith N. Dias, said that the new flights, along with its existing service to Male, would position the national carrier as the “unofficial carrier of the Maldives”.
“There are lots of big resorts down there. We get a lot of tourists from Sri Lanka to the Maldives. They either stopover in Colombo for a while or they connect immediately to the Maldives,” Dias told us.
The launch of services to Gan forms part of a shift in SriLankan Airlines’ strategy to focus on Asia. Gan is one of a series of new regional destinations for the airline, with future routes expected to include Yangon and Hyderabad.
Gan International Airport features a long concrete runway that can accommodate large aircraft as well as an “executive terminal” developed for the 2011 SAARC summit, which has since been taken over by the Shangri-La resort.
Two Maldivian domestic carriers already connect Gan with Male and other points in the archipelago, but SriLankan is the first international airline at the airport, and its Colombo route the first international flight.