Whilst the Maldives is a very popular high-end holiday destination, it has always been a tricky one to score with airline miles.
A lot of people were delighted when British Airways began flying the route a couple of years ago. As usually happens, reward availability was very good when the route was launched, but as more people realised it existed seats began to get scarcer.
It hasn’t helped that there are not many alternatives to BA for US-based members of the American Airlines frequent flyer scheme, although the new partnership AA has with Etihad may release some pressure on BA seats.
Star Alliance was even worse. The sole options plying the route were Austrian Airlines with a seasonal charter service (and only 1-2 flights per week, depending on the month) plus Singapore Airlines. Singapore Airlines is desperately stingy about releasing premium seats to anyone except its own KrisFlyer members, however, and I’m not sure if the Austrian service even has business class.
The one time I booked the Maldives on miles, I ended up routing London – Frankfurt (Lufthansa) – Dubai (Lufthansa) – Male (Emirates), with a cash ticket for the 4 hour Emirates flight from Dubai. Not exactly convenient. Other people end up routing via Colombo in Sri Lanka, which is the shortest connecting point.
At last, though, help is at hand for people with a decent Star Alliance miles balance. Turkish Airlines is launching Istanbul to Male from November 24th, with five flights a week (Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun outbound).
The flight times are not bad for connecting from the UK, with the outbound leaving Istanbul at 20.25, landing in Male at 07.10. The return leaves Male at 09.00, landing in Istanbul at 14.30. If you can’t face paying a fortune for the last night in your resort, only to leave at the crack of dawn to catch the 09.00, there is the relatively modern Traders Hotel (ex Holiday Inn) in Male which could come in handy.
Whilst the resorts in the Maldives are certainly not cheap, most of the big hotel chains are represented. If you have a stash of Hyatt, Hilton or Starwood points, this may be the place to burn them. (Priority Club members need to think carefully about whether the more downmarket Holiday Inn resort is what they want for a romantic vacation, although the Tripadvisor reviews are good.)
It’s just a shame that BMI is no longer in Star Alliance …..