Jan 12, Colombo: Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industrial Export, Investment Promotion, Tourism and Civil Aviation Prasanna Ranatunga has instructed his ministry officials to expedite the resumption of flights and other operations at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.
Accordingly, the Minister has instructed the Airport and Aviation Services Authority to first resume the airline operations of the national carrier SriLankan Airlines at the Mattala Airport and in the meantime negotiate with other international airlines to bring their flights to Mattala.
Minister Ranatunga has given these instructions at a meeting held with the Airport authorities on Friday (08) regarding steps to be taken to make Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport an operational airport.
The Minister further stated that the expectation of the government is to convert the Mattala airport into a working international airport as soon as possible.
Discussions were held at length regarding the concessions on airport service charges for airlines flying to Mattala and the Minister has said that measures will be taken to obtain the cabinet approval for such measures.
It was also proposed to open an aircraft repair yard and training school adjacent to the Mattala Airport and during a discussion with the minister, the SriLankan Airlines’ Aviation Engineers Association had agreed to build and maintain the repair yard.
Minister Prasanna Ranatunga stated that a Cabinet paper will be submitted as soon as the proposal is received to obtain approval.
It was also decided at this meeting to re-implement the Hambantota Development Plan introduced under the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa Government and to explore the possibility of implementing joint passenger exchange programs between the Hambantota Port and the Airport.
The Minister pointed out that attention has been focused on the development of an investment zone adjacent to the Mattala Airport and it has been proposed in the President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s ‘Vision of Prosperity’ policy program.
According to the Ministry, the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport was in operation prior to 2015 and serviced by several airlines including SriLankan, Fly Dubai and Air Arabia Airlines. However, due to low demand most of these airlines suspended services to the airport soon after its opening.
In 2014, 40,386 passengers received services at the Mattala Airport and in 2019, the number was only 1,536. In 2014, the Mattala airport handled 214 metric tons of cargo. However, there was no cargo handling at the airport last year, the Ministry revealed.
The US$ 209 million airport, constructed with Chinese loans during the previous Rajapaksa government, has been called “The World’s Emptiest International Airport” due to its low number of flights despite the large size of the airport.