It was an eventful Easter for 40 South Africans stuck in the Maldives, as suppliers and tour operators came together to organise a charter flight home.
The evacuation of South African citizens requesting repatriation is allowed, provided that they have paid for their return ticket in full and that they are subject to mandatory quarantine for a period of up to 21 days.
In the Maldives, luxury boutique resort, Adaaran, took the initiative to assist South Africans to get home.
The resort’s regional sales and marketing office in South Africa facilitated communications between Adaaran Maldives guests and South Africans stranded at other resorts in the Maldives to bring them home on a special chartered flight, says Melanie Floor, who heads up the South African office. “It wasn’t an easy process because some guests had to be transferred to resorts that could be reached by speedboat so that they could get to the airport quickly and easily.”
The flight was operated by Maldivian Airlines and took off from Velana International Airport on April 11. Melanie says the average cost per person for the charter flight was around US$2 300 (R43 469). All the passengers were happy to help each other cover the total cost. “Those who could not afford to pay that much were helped in a team effort so that they could still fly home,” Melanie said.
Tour operators such as The Holiday Factory, World Leisure Holidays, Thompsons Holidays and kulula holidays helped to locate clients who were stuck on the islands.
The flight wouldn’t have happened without the assistance of the Honorary Consul of South Africa based in the Maldives, in co-operation with the deputy head of mission for the South African High Commission in Sri Lanka.
“There were a lot of layered approvals involved because the Maldives government put extreme restrictions in place to control inter-island movements,” said Melanie.
The travellers arrived on Easter Sunday and are now in quarantine.