G20 Executive Talk Series

September 2016

Branded Story / Trans Maldivian Airways

The History of Trans Maldivian Airways

The Maldives has shown that travel to even the remotest and unspoilt archipelagos on the planet is attainable. The islands’ striking beauty, combined with luxury resorts, would not be as accessible as they are if it wasn’t for a handful of daring people. They turned their passion into a service benefiting visitors, resorts and Maldivians alike.

How it started
The Maldivians undertook voluntary work in order to build their own airport and in 1966 Male saw the first commercial landing.

The few adventurous travelers who came to the Maldives in the following years were limited to exploring the pristine islands close to Male. The natural and untouched beauty of the islands started to appeal an increasing number of inquisitive travelers, and the first resorts opened in 1972, all within reach of boat from Male.

Maldivian Air Taxi
Almost ten years later, with infrastructure problems relating to the established helicopter air service, and the many resorts still only reachable by boat, the idea of faster and more convenient travel was about to be floated. Traveling to Kuredu in 1991, Lars Erik Nielsen recalls ‘The passengers were so sick on the voyage, I had to find a better way to travel!’ And he did. With his love of seaplanes and the much needed Scandinavian entrepreneurship, he started Maldivian Air Taxi.

From its humble beginnings in 1993 with only two aircraft, the company transferred over 500,000 passengers per year.

Trans Maldivian Airways
The beginnings of aviation in the Maldives are to be undoubtedly attributed to Trans Maldivian Airways. TMA started in 1989 as a company operating a helicopter fleet under the name Hummingbird Island Helicopters. Eight years later the name was changed to Hummingbird Island Airways, as the first seaplane was added to the fleet. The transition to a seaplane-only fleet was completed in 1999. A year later, the name Trans Maldivian Airways name came to be, and still today represents a synonym for connecting the Maldives islands. TMA is the oldest air services operator in the Maldives and has grown to become the largest seaplane operator in the world.

Lars Petré, Hussain Afeef and Mohammed Moosa, the brains and investors behind the first air services operator in the Maldives, changed not only visitors’ experience but also the country for the better. Petré believes that ‘seaplanes will remain the best way to travel in the Maldives’. Transporting about 400,000 passengers per year, and new resorts being built, TMA has, too, become a trendsetter in the global tourism industry.

Image: Ulrike Van Eden


What it has come to be
In February 2013 Maldivian Air Taxi (MAT) and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) partnered with Blackstone, one of the world’s leading investment and advisory firms. A private equity fund managed by Blackstone on behalf of its private equity investors acquired a controlling interest in the two companies. The founders and majority shareholders of both MAT and TMA will continue to play a significant role in the new merged company, under the name of Trans Maldivian Airways.

Mr. Lars Petré said “We have partnered with Blackstone, one of the leading private equity firms in the world, to help take our business and tourism in the Maldives to the next level. The Maldivian economy will gain from the presence of one of the world’s largest and most respected investment firms.”

Mr. Lars Nielsen stated “We are extremely happy to partner with Blackstone in the combined enterprise. With their strong network and operational focus, Blackstone will contribute significant value to the venture. This will be beneficial to the employees and enhance their career growth. In addition, together we look forward to delivering more efficient services to the tourists coming to the Maldives and the resorts in which they are staying. This combination will increase service efficiency to our resorts.”

Mr. Hussain Afeef further added “We are committed to playing a significant role in building the tourism industry in the Maldives. Blackstone will bring to Maldives a wide global experience and an established track record in the tourism and hospitality sector. Incorporating global best practices would be beneficial, not just to the companies, but to the tourism industry in general.”

Together the two airlines operate 46 seaplanes including three new DHC-6-400 series and conduct well over 100,000 flights per year making them the world’s largest Twin Otter operator on land or sea. Together the companies employ around 1000 people and service more than 60 resorts, safari boats and liveaboards and carries close to a million passengers a year.

Some key facts:

TMA has transferred close to a million passengers annually since the merger.
TMA currently has a fleet of 46 Twin Otter Aircrafts on floats. (This includes the New 400 series of the twin otter aircraft manufactured by Viking air in Canada and one aircraft configured with the VIP seat configuration)
TMA has over 1000 staff working under the company.
TMA has close to 200 pilots out of which 50 % is consists of Maldivian Pilots.
TMA has over 20 different Nationalities of staff members working in mixed groups.
TMA has over 23 different dedicated resort lounges.
TMA services to over 60 different resort islands.
TMA has won the World’s leading Seaplane operator and the Indian Oceans leading Seaplane operator under World travel awards in 2014.
TMA has played a major role in the growth and expansion of the Tourism throughout the country by being the most reliable and convenient way of transportation provider for the tourists arriving to the Maldives.
TMA has a dedicated lounge service provided to resorts that do not have dedicated lounges and require to provide VIP services, to accommodate CIP’s etc.
TMA has dedicated VIP vehicles to cater for the requirement for accommodating VIP transfers.

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