This Review of Trans Maldivian Airways is from our 2019 flights in the Maldives, although over the past few years we've taken at least 8 Trans Maldivian Airways flights in the course of site inspections of 8 different Maldives luxury resorts (some of them did not involve seaplane flights).
The current Trans Maldivian Airways was formed by the 2013 merger of Maldivian Air Taxi and Trans Maldivian Airways, when private equity firm Blackstone took a controlling interest in both companies. In 2017 Bain Capital and Tempus Group acquired TMA. It's no coincidence that, with no competition, fares have increased markedly for the combined company, with a 35 minute one way journey to Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru $320 + 12% tax, while a 45 minute one way journey to Joali or Velaa is $420 + tax at time of writing.
Trans Maldivian Airways Tickets and Schedule
If you're taking TMA to a resort, your resort will book your TMA ticket; there are no fares sold to individual travelers in advance. Because Trans Maldivian Seaplanes only fly during the day, due to the significant risk of night flying and in particular landing, it's critical that your international flight arrives in Male (MLE) before 15:30, if you want to avoid a layover in Male and get to your resort that same day. Similarly, even if you're on a very late evening flight, your flight from the resort into Male will have to be during daylight hours, which could mean a protracted wait in Male.
Trans Maldivian doesn't have an advance schedule, so you could have to wait a couple hours in Male after arriving, before your seaplane departs. Similarly, you'll only know the day before departure from your resort (often late afternoon or evening) the exact time of your seaplane departure the next day.
Trans Maldivian Seaplane Flight
On all of our TMA seaplane flights, check-in and baggage tagging has been expertly handled by the resort's representative, who have met us in the Arrivals area after we cleared Immigration. We've then been driven to the resort's lounge in the Seaplane Terminal, about a 7 minute drive from the main Male International Airport.
We've never had to wait more than 2 hours, and more often the wait, once we were in the lounge, was somewhere between 1-1.5 hours.
The actual flight experience is one that, paradoxically, my husband looks forward to more than I do. It's not the plane itself, which frankly is pretty warm (planes are not air conditioned) and uncomfortable. You're in a DHC-6-300 (or possibly DHC-6-200 or DHC-6-100) Twin Otter, with tightly spaced seats, low back rests with no head support and no recline, in a 1-2 configuration. Furthermore, the cabin ceiling is only about 4'11” which is shorter than my 11 year old, so most passengers have to stoop and try to avoid bumping their heads on the way to a seat.
But all that said, the views from the window seats, at least on a clear day, are gorgeous, as you fly over uninhabited little islands and white sandbars lapped by turquoise water. And of course, there's the anticipation, at least on the outbound journey, of the island resort you're about to experience.
I do recommend bringing your own noise cancelling headphones or at least a really good pair of ear plugs, since the engines are noisy. The resort will typically offer you some water before your flight.
Note that at many resorts, the seaplane will land at a pontoon, and you'll need to take a short speed boat journey to the main pier where you'll be welcomed.
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