The History of Trans Maldivian Airways
The Maldives has shown that travel to even the remotest and unspoilt archipelagos on the planet is attainable. The islands’ striking beauty, combined with luxury resorts, would not be as accessible as they are if it wasn’t for a handful of daring people. They turned their passion into a service benefiting visitors, resorts and Maldivians alike.
How it started
The Maldivians undertook voluntary work in order to build their own airport and in 1966 Male saw the first commercial landing.
The few adventurous travelers who came to the Maldives in the following years were limited to exploring the pristine islands close to Male. The natural and untouched beauty of the islands started to appeal an increasing number of inquisitive travelers, and the first resorts opened in 1972, all within reach of boat from Male.
Maldivian Air Taxi
Almost ten years later, with infrastructure problems relating to the established helicopter air service, and the many resorts still only reachable by boat, the idea of faster and more convenient travel was about to be floated. Traveling to Kuredu in 1991, Lars Erik Nielsen recalls ‘The passengers were so sick on the voyage, I had to find a better way to travel!’ And he did. With his love of seaplanes and the much needed Scandinavian entrepreneurship, he started Maldivian Air Taxi.
From its humble beginnings in 1993 with only two aircraft, the company transferred over 500,000 passengers per year.
Trans Maldivian Airways
The beginnings of aviation in the Maldives are to be undoubtedly attributed to Trans Maldivian Airways. TMA started in 1989 as a company operating a helicopter fleet under the name Hummingbird Island Helicopters. Eight years later the name was changed to Hummingbird Island Airways, as the first seaplane was added to the fleet. The transition to a seaplane-only fleet was completed in 1999. A year later, the name Trans Maldivian Airways name came to be, and still today represents a synonym for connecting the Maldives islands. TMA is the oldest air services operator in the Maldives and has grown to become the largest seaplane operator in the world.
Lars Petré, Hussain Afeef and Mohammed Moosa, the brains and investors behind the first air services operator in the Maldives, changed not only visitors’ experience but also the country for the better. Petré believes that ‘seaplanes will remain the best way to travel in the Maldives’. Transporting about 400,000 passengers per year, and new resorts being built, TMA has, too, become a trendsetter in the global tourism industry.
What it has come to be
In February 2013 Maldivian Air Taxi (MAT) and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) partnered with Blackstone, one of the world’s leading investment and advisory firms. A private equity fund managed by Blackstone on behalf of its private equity investors acquired a controlling interest in the two companies. The founders and majority shareholders of both MAT and TMA will continue to play a significant role in the new merged company, under the name of Trans Maldivian Airways.
Mr. Lars Petré said “We have partnered with Blackstone, one of the leading private equity firms in the world, to help take our business and tourism in the Maldives to the next level. The Maldivian economy will gain from the presence of one of the world’s largest and most respected investment firms.”
Mr. Lars Nielsen stated “We are extremely happy to partner with Blackstone in the combined enterprise. With their strong network and operational focus, Blackstone will contribute significant value to the venture. This will be beneficial to the employees and enhance their career growth. In addition, together we look forward to delivering more efficient services to the tourists coming to the Maldives and the resorts in which they are staying. This combination will increase service efficiency to our resorts.”
Mr. Hussain Afeef further added “We are committed to playing a significant role in building the tourism industry in the Maldives. Blackstone will bring to Maldives a wide global experience and an established track record in the tourism and hospitality sector. Incorporating global best practices would be beneficial, not just to the companies, but to the tourism industry in general.”
In December 2017, the company 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, from the current shareholders led by Blackstone Capital Partners.
Bain Capital Private Equity
Since 1984, Bain Capital Private Equity has made approximately 300 investments that have generated industry-leading returns and has extensive experience in the leisure industry, having invested in companies including Ooedo Onsen and Virgin Cruise.
Tempus Global, a member of this consortium, is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2011. Its business mainly covers four areas including air tickets, tourism, travel management and internet finance.
Bain Capital, leveraging its successful track record in the leisure industry, will work alongside TMA to further grow the company. Tempus Group will help TMA develop as the quintessential part of the Maldives travel experience for Chinese and international travelers and help capitalize on the growing leisure market in China.
Currently the airline operates 49 seaplanes including three DHC-6-400 series and conduct well over 100,000 flights per year making it the world’s largest Twin Otter operator on land or sea. Together the companies employ over 900 people and services more than 60 resorts.