Former Director of Operations at Maldivian Captain Mohamed Ameen has revealed the factors that led to the national airline being on the verge of bankruptcy.
On a Channel13 program, Ameen stated that in 2017, the company made a profit of MVR 125 million from a revenue of MVR 1.6 billion. After the election of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in 2018, the Transition Committee examined the books of Island Aviation and declared the company was headed in the right direction.
“That means Island Aviation was running healthily when the new administration came into power”, said Ameen.
However, an audit in 2020 showed the company had debts of over MVR 300 million. According to Ameen, one of the major reasons was the appointment of an unqualified, inexperienced CEO.
“After that point, I was unsurprised by what happened to the company”.
“Since Island Aviation was first established, the government has been changing the CEOs. Still, it was always someone with experience in the industry, or in business. It was a shock when they selected someone with no prior experience”, the former Operations Director stated.
Captain Ameen declared that since airlines runs on little profit, and it would take less than a minute for someone with no knowledge of the industry to wreck the company.
He affirmed that when the current government came into power, Island Aviation flew to six destinations in China. Although the operations did not generate much profit, if six flights to six cities in China returned with 200 passengers each, it would benefit the Maldivian economy. Ameen revealed the reason for the arrangement made during former President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s tenure was the overall benefit to the economy.
Ameen highlighted that in 2020, prior to COVID-19, most operations were halted and only two flights traveled to China. The longer the flights stayed on the ground, expenses would increase.
Another factor that led to bankruptcy was unnecessary purchases, such as expensive offices in prime locations. Ameen observed that this caused a hike in fixed costs.
“We lost business. We lost operations in China. Fixed cost increased”.
It was revealed that the company lost 20 contracts for seaplane operations due to failure to offer adequate services. Ameen attributed the loss to the company being run by those with no knowledge of aviation.
Experts distanced themselves from the company
Former President Yameen Abdul Gayoom played a major role in establishing Maldivian. During his time as Chairman, he crafted operations of the company to facilitate a modern airline. That was during the tenure of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The administrations that followed, President Nasheed, President Waheed, and President Yameen, made no changes to the main operations and technicalities of the company.
Yet, President Solih heavily influenced the technical operations of the company and caused staff with years of experience to leave the company.
Staff who left due to government influence
- Head of Training
- Safety Pilot
- Chief Seaplane Pilot
- Chief Pilot of Seaplane Operations and Head of Training
- Operations Manager
Ameen claimed that these positions were equivalent to generals in the army, and were the backbone of the company. Negative influences forced them to leave the company.
“They dealt with numerous influences that violated procedure. Assigning people as captain, assigning people to positions that do not exist in the structure, and allowing nephews of President Solih to occupy major positions that were not part of the structure”, said Ameen.
As per the Captain, a nephew of the president was accepted as a cadet pilot, and it was decided he would not pay a training fee. Maldivian’s regulations dictate the fee to be redacted from the employee’s salary, but in order to not charge the president’s nephew a fee, none of the other candidates were charged either. Accepting the situation proved difficult for professionals.
The structure of command and control was lost when those with no experience began ordering professionals around.
“The company lost its framework when almost 10 of the employees left”, he disclosed.
Ameen considered that to be the biggest problem the company faced and claimed no other government had done anything as such.
It is worth noting that while the state of Maldivian has deteriorated, the current Deputy Managing Director, Aishath Jennifer, is unqualified for the position.