Review: Trans Maldivian Airways Flight

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I was curious to see how the Trans Maldivian Twin Otter seaplane experience differed from the Maldives Airlines Dash 8 experiences I’ve had in the past. Trans Maldivian has about 45 of these planes in their fleet, so they’re buzzing all over the place in the Maldives.

Boarding for our flight was called at 4:30PM. There were six seaplanes at the “terminal.”

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Seaplane terminal Male Airport

We could walk onto the dock straight from the back of the St. Regis lounge. There were no formal boarding passes, but rather the 14 of us were escorted to the plane.

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Seaplane terminal Male Airport

I’ve actually never been on a seaplane before, so I was excited about this.

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Trans Maldivian Airways plane

Our seaplane was at the far left dock, where the captain, first officer, and flight attendant/baggage handler were hanging out.

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Trans Maldivian Airways plane

There’s no assigned seating on Trans Maldivian, so if you want your choice of seat, be sure you’re among the first to board.

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Trans Maldivian Airways cabin

As an aviation geek, the best part of these planes is that there’s no door between the cabin and cockpit. Of course this meant that I selected the single seat in the first row.

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Trans Maldivian Airways cockpit

One quick caution about the first row. As soon as the engines start there’s a fan that blasts in your face, and there’s no way to turn it down. On one hand it’s sort of refreshing, on the other hand it blows really hard. On the return flight I sat in the center seat in the first row, which is really the best seat for the cockpit view. It’s like riding in a plane’s jumpseat. It also doesn’t have a fan directly in front of it.

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Trans Maldivian Airways row one fan — be aware!

Boarding took only a couple of minutes, and the flight attendant gave us a very quick safety briefing. It took maybe 30 seconds, and he was talking at 100 miles per hour and his English wasn’t good, so I didn’t hear a word of the demo. I did hear him say our flight time would be 45 minutes, though. That was the last time we saw him, as he sat in the back of the plane for the rest of the flight, by the bags.

Once that was done, the captain and first officer got on the plane.

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Trans Maldivian Airways view

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Trans Maldivian Airways cockpit view

All Trans Maldivian pilots seem to wear flip flops, which they take off once they’re in the cockpit.

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Trans Maldivian Airways — shoes are optional

We quickly started our engines, and then “taxied” out to the takeoff area. That was quite fun, as it was sort of like taking a boat ride.

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Off we go!

While there’s not a formal runway, there is a specific area where planes take off and land, given the quantity of traffic in the area. After a very short taxi, we were cleared for takeoff.

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Taking off from Male Airport

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous, simply because it was my first time on a seaplane. To my surprise, the climb out was gradual and smooth as silk. I was at ease just a few seconds after takeoff.

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Taking off from Male Airport

We had great views of Male after takeoff.

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View of Male after takeoff

From there we had more great views for the first 10 minutes of the flight.

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Views enroute to the St. Regis

The St. Regis is about 80 miles from the airport, though for about half the flight there wasn’t much in the way of views, as there were a limited number of islands.

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Views enroute to the St. Regis

The seaplane is really loud, and there’s not really much to do. There’s no service or movement in the cabin, and soon enough we were already descending. Since I had a view of the instruments, I noticed that we cruised at about 5,000 feet, and, at about 120 knots most of the way.

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Descending to the St. Regis

By 5:20PM we touched down at the St. Regis. Obviously they leave a bit of distance from the dock when landing, so we touched down a few hundred meters from the resort, with the overwater villas in view.

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Touchdown at the St. Regis!

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“Taxiing” at the St. Regis!

From there it took a couple of minutes until we arrived at the dock. What a fun flight!

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Plane upon arrival

The return flight was very similar. This time around I selected the center seat in the first row, which had such cool views, especially on approach into Male. The only other interesting aspect of that flight was that the pilots weren’t “local” — instead the captain was Canadian, and first officer was German. What interesting lives they must have…

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View approaching Male Airport

Trans Maldivian Airways bottom line

Taking a seaplane in the Maldives was super fun. While the plane is louder and not as comfortable as the Dash 8, I preferred the seaplane experience for a few reasons:

  • The views are better, since you fly lower
  • It’s so cool to be able to look directly into the cockpit the entire flight
  • It’s convenient to arrive directly at the hotel, rather than having to take a further transfer after landing at one of the domestic airports

If you’ve taken a domestic flight in the Maldives, what was your experience like?

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Comments

  1. A true aviation geek would’ve taken the San Juan seaplanes whole you lived in Seattle. Or stayed in the airplane hostel when you were in Sweden, or visited the Taupo McDonald’s in an airplane when in New Zealand.

    Not sure why you call yourself that. Being a rich person who goes on a lot of planes doesn’t make one a “geek”.

  2. @K Who made you in charge of defining “true aviation geek” and its requirements?

    @James K Well, it’s not actually arriving at an airport, per se…

  3. Took the same airline to the Constance hotel, but we had a stop to drop few passenger at a different hotel, our first landing was into waves, plane stoped quick and hard( totally stoped on1-2 wave), when second landing was way smother comparable to a ground landing. But view was Amazing The all way for us, small island or coral barrer circle with all shade on blue .
    Nice article bring back good memory.

  4. @K Personally, I define an avgeek as anyone who likes and knows a bit about planes. Perhaps some people would prefer not to visit such touristy attractions that may not suit their interests.

  5. You definitely haven’t flown cape air bos-ack etc. Small plane, open cabin, one person sits next to the captain etc.

  6. Pretty much the same experience on TMA, including the flip flops! It’s amazing how smooth takeoff and landing are on the water.

    I would add that it’s possible that you won’t get a direct flight to your hotel. We had to make one stop on our way to the Conrad during our trip and I don’t think we or the hotel had any control over that. On the one hand, it was a tad warm and loud in the plane. On the other hand, double the takeoffs and landings!

    @JamesK – the hotels technically have their own 3-letter airport code and the bags are tagged.

  7. According to StatsCan, Canada’s tenth busiest airport (by flight movements) is Victoria Harbour, close to Lucky’s former home of Seattle. There are four airlines operating from the harbour, operating exclusively on floats (DHC2, DHC3, DHC6). No flip-flops though.

  8. Sea plane routes (I’m thinking of Vancouver Harbour, Victoria Harbour and YVR South Terminal) have designated take off and landing routes that don’t intersect with regular air traffic for what it is worth. . .

  9. I am on this flight next week. Well not the exact one since I am staying at a different resort, but the sea plane reservation is similar. Thanks for posting as this helps me know what to expect.

  10. We love the seaplane ride in the Maldives. The resort we stayed last time was in one of the furthest atoll that’s serviceable by seaplane. Absolutely enjoyed the scenery of the during the 1:15 min ride across 2 other atolls. I do wish there were fan for the passenger as the plane does get very hot and sweaty.

  11. @lucky/Ben, Great pictures!. Was it overcast the whole time you were there?
    I took a similar flight a few years ago. The colours just pop with the sunlight! You may need to go back 😉

  12. I’ve been lucky enough to have two trips to the Maldives both to the same resort (Kuredu) with seaplane transfers and they are an amazing experience. At the island we were on two or three of the planes stay overnight so you do get a twin turboprop alarm call in the morning if you’re on the same side of the island as their parking space!

  13. K
    Bite Me !! Lucky does a Good job .Me and my lady did the same plane in Alaska a few years ago only the pilot picked up a fish from his trap too . I felt Safe and FUN to stand on the Floats while looking at the remote area on a aircraft .
    Show us POOR more !!!

    CHEERs

  14. I took a few videos of our Trans Maldivian flights to & from the Conrad. Loved them & was also fortunate to be non-stop.
    Baggage is weight limited, carry-on baggage is weighed & you do have proper (paper) boarding passes.

  15. While not a seaplane, reminds me of the CapeAir flights between San Juan, PR and St. Thomas. Never up higher than 4k- 5k feet, the views are incredible. Since those are used as commuter shuttles there’s been more than one occasion I’ve been the only passenger, and depending on the pilot, they might let you sit in the co-pilot’s seat.

  16. We flew TMA to Conrad Rangali many times and flights can be direct if they have enough passengers or via one or more other islands. Great fun. Although Lucky does not like the fans they are vital on a warm day for most of us.

    The official baggage allowance for the Conrad Jan 2017 is as follows (it might be different for other resorts):
    “The luggage allowance is 25 kg per person plus 5kg of hand luggage and the maximum weight is 32 kg per piece of luggage. Any excess goods will need to be removed and placed in another baggage. Any excess baggage is chargeable and will have to be paid directly to Transmaldivian airways at US$5.00 plus 12% TGST per 1 kg per way.”

    Hope this helps. Have a great flight.

    Back in the “00’s” the Conrad used another airline that no longer exists. All the planes were actually owner-operated and ours was owned/operated by a bush pilot from Alberta who flew the North West Territories in the Canadian summer and the Maldives in the winter.

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