Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), the largest seaplane operator in the world, in a bid to strengthen their footprint and support infrastructure in Maldives tourism, has announced major expansion plans.

In a statement, TMA revealed its plans to enter a new market; wheel-based domestic operations, opposed to its traditional seaplane service. The company confirmed introducing ATR aircraft to its fleet soon, extending the TMA livery presence from waterdromes to aerodromes. The ATR services will be based out of the upcoming Madivaru Airport in Lhaviyani Atoll, an airport being developed by Kuredu Holdings. The airline will also have a wheel plane hangar at Madivaru Airport.

Additionally, TMA will also be toughening their extensive seaplane network by adding four more twin-otter aircraft, bringing the total to a strong 60 by the third quarter of 2021.

A TMA aircraft --

Humble beginnings to massive expansion

Trans Maldivian Airways' history goes back to 1989, to a helicopter fleet named "Hummingbird Island Helicopters", but at the time, the infrastructure supporting helicopters were not around, making tourist transfers a challenge. In 1993, Scandanavian entrepreneur Lars Erik Nielsen started Maldivian Air Taxi and introduced seaplanes in the Maldives. The Maldives saw rapid growth and demand for seaplane services in the next few years.

Seeing the growth potential, Hummingbird Island Helicopters rebranded as Hummingbird Island Airways and added the first seaplane to their fleet in 1997. By 1999, the company transitioned to a seaplane-only fleet, and in 2000, rebranded again as Trans Maldivian Airways.

Maldivian Air Taxi and Trans Maldivian Airways took the skies, connecting a vast network of resorts to the Maldives' main hub Velana Internatonal Airport in Hulhulé for more than a decade as two airlines until a strategic merger took place in 2013. The two airlines became one, under the name Trans Maldivian Airways, and was acquired by The Blackstone Group, a leading international investment group.

A Trans Maldivian Airways seaplane at Siyam World -- (Photo/Sun Siyam)

In December 2017, Trans Maldivian Airways was acquired by Bain Capital Private Equity, a global private equity firm headquartered out of the US, in association with Tempus Group, a Chinese tourism-focused conglomerate.

TMA, with its 54 twin-otters, fly more than a million passengers every year from Velana International Airport to more than 80 resort destinations all over the Maldives. As seaplane operations take place only during daylight hours, TMA says their upcoming wheel-based ATR service will support their current transfer network and enable 24/7 transfer solutions to all resorts in the Maldives.