If you are a Maldivian, flying outside of the country is unimaginably expensive. This might be the case for most people no matter where they are from around the world. But when it comes to the Maldives, travelling within the country is also extremely expensive.
Hopping from one island to the other might seem like an ideal vacation, and of course, it is. The islands are beautiful and peaceful and for those who are residents of these islands, getting to live at home is often a privilege. Thousands of people who own their own homes, that they do not pay rent for, located just a short walk away from the beach are forced to migrate to the noisy and polluted capital City of Male’.
Moving away from the peaceful island life to the noisy capital City is a hard struggle as everything in life becomes more expensive and suddenly people are faced with the reality of having to pay rent for the rest of their lives. Though it may be easy to say ‘just go back to your island and live that easy life’, that is easier said than done as medical care, schooling and everything else is far from developed when it comes to islands in the Maldives.
For thousands of people, their home has become a place that they get to visit once a year, and that is if they are lucky. But this dream ‘vacation home’ comes at a cost as flying from the capital city to islands comes at an extremely shocking price.
Within the past year or two, the national airline Maldivian had drastically increased the cost of flying. Tickets from Male’ to Fuvahmulah went from MVR 999 and below to MVR 1500 and above in recent years. While people used to fly to the capital City for vacations and fly back home during their annual leave or to even spend time with family easily, the rising price of tickets has made it excruciatingly difficult to fly back home, even once a year. With a majority of the people living from pay-cheque to pay-cheque, due to the rising cost of living, flying back home has taken a back seat in the priority list.
It is a given with home being taken away due to rising costs, people would complain and raise questions regarding why the national airline has made fares so expensive that people need to save up for months before they can book a flight back home. Recently, the national airline has yet again raised their prices, now increasing fares by another MVR 100 to MVR 200.
During a state owned enterprise committe that was hosted at the Parliament of the Maldives, the management of the national airline were brought in and questioned regarding the increasing fares of the Maldivian tickets. As a response to their questioning, the Managing Director Mohamed Mihad stated that the airline is not able to give cheaper fares unless there is a Government subsidy involved.
As it was one of the promises of the President to reduce the price of the domestic airline ticket fares, the prices were lower during 2019, since then the prices have been slowly but surely increasing as the years go on. For 2019 the Government gave a MVR 35 million subsidy, and according to the airline, even with this subsidy they still made a staggering loss of MVR 126 million.
The airline has also stated that following 2019, they have not received any subsidies from the Government, which resulted in the airline having no choice but to increase their ticket fares in order to fight off the losses that they are making.
The airline has further stated several reasons as to why the operational costs of the airline has increased over the past few year, thus customers facing increased ticket prices. Factors such as the major increase in oil prices we saw in the past year, which increased the jet fuel prices from MVR 12 per litre to MVR 22 per litre, the airline being forced to travel to several more airports without having the capacity to fly to said destinations, having to hire additional staff in order to compete with the increasing demand, increased maintenance cost following the COVID-19 pandemic among other reasons.
According to the company, though so many things have changed over the past few years to increase the cost of running the national airline, without any Government subsidy they have no other choice but to increase the ticket fares. And even with these increases the national airline is still running at a loss.
While many have been dreaming of a day when they can finally fly back home without spending a majority of their hard-earned money, the national airline, it seems is getting no help from the Government in fulfilling these dreams either. So, when it comes to flying back to your island for vacation, that dream might have to take a back seat in the priority list yet again, as the ticket prices does not seem like they will drop anytime soon.