Honeymooners on a budget will be cheered to hear that flydubai is set to launch flights to the Maldives, becoming the first low-cost carrier to serve the popular destination in the Indian Ocean.
Flydubai, currently on a major expansion throughout the region and beyond, will begin flying to Malé, the capital of the Maldives, on January 19, operating five flights per week, starting at Dh1,730 (US$470).
"We are very excited about adding Malé to our destination network," said Ghaith Al Ghaith, the chief executive of flydubai. "As the first low-cost carrier from the UAE to fly to the Maldives, we are making this island paradise even more accessible."
Popular among honeymooners the world over, the Maldives comprises 1,190 coral islands.
Tourism arrivals to the Maldives rose more than 15 per cent in the first quarter of the year from a year ago, flydubai said, citing official Maldives statistics.
Moreover, there has been a 77 per cent rise in passengers from the Middle East over the same period, driven by the opening of a number of regionally based hotel chains. Last December, for example, Jumeirah Group's Vittaveli Maldives opened its doors.
"We anticipate a strong demand for flights from the GCC, in particular Kuwait, as well as markets such as Russia, CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] and Central and Eastern Europe," said Mr Al Ghaith.
The Maldives "is one of the most sought-after destinations for honeymooners from this part of the world", said Sunil D'Souza, the regional travel director at Kanoo Travel. "Definitely people will look for low-cost carriers to mitigate the cost element."
The Maldives welcomed almost 1 million tourists last year, up 17.6 per cent over the previous year, said flydubai. The carrier "offers a low-cost model with innovation and excellent service", said Mr Al Ghaith.
"This proposition has proved very popular with our passengers and will undoubtedly be a draw for those looking to experience one of the world's top holiday spots at an affordable price."
Flydubai aims to expand its fleet to 50 planes in four years from 26 currently. The carrier flies to 51 destinations and has earmarked up to 20 more possible routes for the next few years.
This year, flydubai has launched eight routes: Bucharest; Sana'a; Basra and Najaf, Iraq; Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; Taif and Tabuk, Saudi Arabia; and Skopje, Macedonia.
The airline, founded in March 2008 by the Government of Dubai, hopes to make its first profit this year, said Mr Al Ghaith this month. It began flying in 2009.