Airport review: Velana International Airport, Male, Maldives

Airport review: Velana International Airport, Male, Maldives


THE FLIGHT


MI481 to Singapore economy class

THE ARRIVAL


I have flown on a domestic flight into MLE from Dhaalu Airport on the small island of Kudahuvadhoo and it's just a short stroll from the domestic terminal to the international one. Many Maldives resorts offer transfers by seaplane which arrive at a separate terminal or by speedboat which deliver you to a dock right outside the international terminal. The airport itself is located on Hulhule Island a Fifteen minute drive or Ten minute boat ride from the capital of Male.

THE LOOK


To reach the international terminal you have to walk through a busy outdoor plaza lined with shops and seaplane check in desks but once inside it's modern clean compact and air conditioned.


CHECK-IN


There is no line at the SilkAir desk so I'm checked in and luggage free in minutes. It's a similar story at passport control where I breeze through barely breaking stride.

SECURITY


There are 2 security checks: a bag scan before entering the check in area and then the usual X ray and laptop liquid check afterwards. Both are quick and painless because we are the only passengers passing through. This could just be fortuitous timing but given the absence of a queue shepherding barrier system it's reasonable to assume long waits are rare.

FOOD AND DRINK


Things were going so well upstairs in the main terminal there are just 2 options: a Burger King and an outpost of The Coffee Club which in addition to the normal cakes sandwiches and pastries offers breakfasts, salads ,pastas and Thai meals. Downstairs by the boarding gates is a Costa Coffee a Gloria Jean's Coffees and a Dairy Queen that sells ice cream and unappetizing looking hot dogs.

RETAIL THERAPY


The good news is that you can spend all the money you saved on food on Swarovski earrings expensive Italian handbags and leaping porcelain dolphins. The terminal's duty free section is expansive sleek and brimming with luxury brands but don't commit too soon because beyond it are high end boutiques selling luggage, sunglasses jewelry and somewhat bizarrely spices and teas. Survive this retail gauntlet and you are plunged into a large market selling every form of Maldivian themed souvenir you can possibly imagine plus many you probably didn't such as board games and Lego sets. No wonder there's no room for a decent restaurant.

PASSING TIME


If you are lucky enough to be travelling business class or have a high enough status with an associated frequent flyer program you can access the cosseted surrounds of the Leeli Lounge. I'm neither but am told it offers comfortable seating, food, non alcoholic drinks and free wi-fi. Allegedly there is complimentary wi-fi throughout the terminal but there is nothing upstairs and the service downstairs is so patchy and unreliable that I give up before I hurl my laptop against the wall in frustration. Several standalone computer terminals near the gates promise internet access but none are working. However several charging stations with multi region sockets and a small children's play area.

ONE MORE THING


There is a day spa offering massages in the plaza outside and free showers inside the terminal.

THE VERDICT


The gateway to one of the planet's most beguiling tropical havens MLE is underwhelming. Unless you are a shopaholic my recommendation would be to delay entering the terminal until the last possible minute. Find a seat outside on the dock and watch the seaplanes and super yachts shuttle back and forth on water instead such a mesmerizing shade of turquoise you will swear it's been Photo shopped.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE


2.5*

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