Flyme, the Maldive Islands-based start-up airline, plans to extend its route network to include international destinations over the next three years. It will also add jet-engined aicraft, likely to be Airbus A320s or Boeing 737s, to its otherwise all-turboprop fleet.

The carrier was launched as Villa Air last October by one of the island nation's largest private companies, Malé-based Villa Group, which includes holiday properties and other businesses such as a fuel import and distribution and tuna fish processing.

Flyme operates two dry-leased ATR 42-500s, built in 1999 and 2001, from its base at the firm's own Villa Airport Maamigili to Malé and from the capital to Gan, in the south of the archipelago.

It wants to add an ATR 72-500 or -600 in November and replace one of the ATR 42s with another ATR 72 next year, says managing director Riluwan Shareef to Flightglobal Pro.

He adds that a fleet of three turboprops would allow expansion of the domestic route network. It plans to add Kadedhoo, Hanimadhoo and Kadhdhoo as destinations, he says.

By 2015, the carrier intends to fly internationally. Colombo, Sri Lanka and Trivandrum, India could be served by the ATR 72-600, said Shareef. But for airports further afield, such as Bangalore and Bangkok, the airline will need narrowbody types. He adds that the company is looking at A320- and 737-family aircraft.

Depending on the market development and financial situation, the airline could have two narrowbodies and four turboprops by 2018, he says. Any further growth would require a new business plan.

While Shareef sees no opportunity for partnerships with other airlines in the domestic arena, codesharing, a joint venture or other forms of co-operation with another carrier could be options to introduce international routes.

Flyme expects to generate a turnover of $8-9 million during its first year of operation, growing to $12-13 million in 2012/2013.

Around 85% of passengers are tourists, with the remainder drawn from the local population.

Flyme contracts Lufthansa Technik Aero Alzey to service its turboprop engines while Sabena technics provides component support.

Airframe maintenance up to C checks is undertaken in-house at the airline's hangar at Maamigili airport.

The engines, landing gear and "most of the airframe" of both ATR 42s were overhauled just before their lease began and will not require a scheduled heavy maintenance check for 18 to 24 months, says Shareef. The larger ATR 72s would, however, be factory-new and thus require less maintenance, he adds.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news