Etihad Airways’ first flight to Malé touched down to a colourful welcome in the capital of the Republic of the Maldives on Tuesday afternoon.

EY flight 278 was honoured with a traditional water cannon salute and the 146 passengers were greeted by local Bodu beru (big drum) dancers and singers performing on the tarmac.

Forward bookings for the daily Airbus A320 service indicate the route is already becoming one of the most popular in the airline’s global network.

Etihad Airways’ schedule offers an attractive afternoon arrival and evening departure and European travellers can take advantage of overnight flights in both directions, offering them a full extra day in the Maldives.

The Maldives is made up of close to 1,200 islands grouped into natural atolls; including 200 inhabited islands and 97 resort islands, with a population of close to 300,000 people. The region features deep blue seas, sandy beaches and turquoise reefs, and with its tropical climate and warm temperatures year round, is a renowned honeymoon and leisure destination.