Mega Maldives Airlines
The jets: B757, B767
The routes: Hong Kong – Male (4x); Beijing – Male (5x); Shanghai – Male (5x)
The reason: The price! Mega Maldives’ Hong Kong to Male round-trip tickets start from US$802 in economy. And, it’s time to prick your ears all you cheap premium air fare lovers, US$866 in the carrier’s premium economy cabin offering 50 per cent more recline and business class service – it's hard to get any better than this if you don’t mind losing out on collecting frequent flyer points on unaffiliated Mega Maldives. The relatively new kid on the block serves Hong Kong four times a week using single-aisle B757 aircraft. It also serves both Beijing and Shanghai with five weekly flights.
Singapore Airlines (SIA)
The jet: A330-300
The route: Singapore – Male (14x)
The reason: SIA’s onboard service leaves little left to be desired. Both business and economy on the A330 feature some of the latest regional cabin products out there. Think 170-degree lie-flats upfront and oversize 11.1-inch PTVs in coach. SIA flies to the Maldives twice daily, more than any other Southeast Asian carrier, thereby offering much flexibility for travellers connecting through Changi. If you’re quick on your feet, and fast with your mouse, snatch up one of SIA’s “Super Deals” for just S$533 (US$426) return, or, if budget allows, US$2,375 will secure you a premium seat upfront.
Malaysia Airlines (MAS)
The jet: B737-800
The route: Kuala Lumpur – Male (7x)
The reason: First off, MAS could really use some support, given the carrier could hardly be blamed for what’s happened to ill-fated MH17 and MH370. For those of you who don’t do pity parties, cosider this: MAS also happens to be one of our finest airlines in the Asia-Pacific by public opinion. It’s received countless industry awards over the years and often offers fares that are hard to beat. Its daily Maldives departures are operated by single-aisle new-generation B737-800s with a cosy business cabin of 16 145-degree recliners and 144 standard economy seats. Economy fares start at US$633.
China Southern Airlines (CZ)
The jet: B777-200ER
The route: Guangzhou – Male (7x)
The reason: Good value for money and the largest number of connections from Greater China. CZ serves Male daily with a widebody B777-200ER. Seats are up for grabs in business, premium economy and economy. The flight departs Guangzhou’s Baiyun at 1420, thereby enabling it to capture significant feeder traffic from CZ’s domestic and short-radius regional network. The return red eye arrives back in the Pearl River Delta just past six in the morning, equally conducive for forward connections. What really closes the deal is the price, though. While – let’s be honest here – CZ is not necessarily known for its stellar onboard product unless you’re flying the upgraded A330s, B787s and A380s, the price is hard to beat. For the period we checked in September, the round-trip in business was priced at US$1,550, while premium was bookable for US$1,090 and economy US$890.
Cathay Pacific (CX)
The jet: A330-300
The route: Hong Kong – Male (4x)
The reason: Cathay’s inflight service remains one of the best out there. The A330s CX employs on the Male service feature the upgraded three-class configuration with 180-degree bed-type business seating, a small premium economy cabin and two large economy compartments. When flying upfront, the CX seat might easily be your best bet to the Maldives. But CX doesn't come cheap. The cheapest business roundtrip from Hong Kong to Male in September is priced at US$2,350. Watch out for this, though: If you’re based in Hong Kong and your schedule is more flexible, a CX “Fanfares” promotion deal (in economy) can get you to the islands for as little as US$520.
Dominic Sebastian Lalk