airport would attract additional forex:
MRIA will match Gatwick soon
Aviation Minister, Priyankara Jayaratne
Chairman, Airport Aviation,
For some people and opposition politicians commissioning an
international airport is all about aircraft landing and taking off. They
count the number of flights per day that land at an airport and judge
the success of the endeavour.
When the Gatwick airport in London opened, there were days when a
single aircraft would land and take off from Gatwick and it was
connected by a single road only.
When I had to fly to Berlin to cover the World Tourism Market I chose
Gatwick to get my connection from London as there are a countless number
of air connections, trains, buses and taxi links from the city and from
the Heathrow airport to Gatwick.
Today, Gatwick is one of the busiest airports in the world and due to
the self check-in facility one needs to go to the airport only an hour
before the flight.
The success story of Gatwick is repeated all over the world when it
comes to the opening of new airports and is sure to follow the Mattala
Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) opened on March 18 making it a
red letter day in the South Asian aviation history.
History states the concept of an aircraft first appeared in world
history in the legend of Ravana. The ancient pride of’ Sri Lanka has
been re-established with the opening of the MRIA.
With the positive revolutionary change in the economic, social and
political situation in Sri Lanka a second international gateway has been
a crying need for several decades.
The government has succeeded in building a country, equipped with all
commercial facilities to compete in the international arena of the
rapidly developing world.
The Airport, built in keeping with the Mahinda Chinthana concept of
“Winning the blue sky” as part of Sri Lanka’s quest to become the Wonder
of Asia, will be a boon to the local aviation industry while being a
catalyst for the economic development of the Southern Province and many
other bordering provinces enabling international trade and tourism,
among other benefits.
A second international airport was a proposal that was looked down by
successive political leaders.
The international naval and sea routes which run east to west is
situated in close proximity to Hambantota and the opening of the airport
will create new commercial trade opportunities not only to the Southern
province but to the other bordering provinces as well, creating new
employment opportunities and stimulating economic growth.
The new airport would be a boost for the travel trade development as
it would attract additional foreign exchange. The Katunayake airport too
is to be expanded and modernised to take the country towards a regional
The opening of the airport would help uplift the living pattern of
the people in the region and pave the way for better living conditions.
The Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport
Initiated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and completed by several
state agencies under the stewardship of the Ministry of Civil Aviation,
the project complements many other ongoing endeavours to raise the
living standards of the people not only in Hambantota, but in nearby
districts such as Ampara, Matara and Monaragala.
The new Airport would serve as a cargo hub to many provinces with the
already established Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port.
MRIA is a symbol of Sri Lanka’s growing economic stature
internationally especially when Hambantota hosts the upcoming
Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) Youth Forum.
The airport will not merely function to exchange passengers and
commodities but also as the aviation hub which displays the beauty and
the pride of Sri Lanka to the world. The Chinese government special
envoy Luo Fuha, Vice Chairman of CPPCC of China speaking at the
inaugural ceremony of MRIA said the newly appointed government of the
People’s Republic of China is committed to further strengthen the mutual
cooperation between Sri Lanka and China in the fields of economic,
social, political, cultural and other areas.
The Aviation Minister, Priyankara Jayaratne said the opening of the
second international airport fills a great void in the country. “Sri
Lanka after achieving peace now sees an upsurge in tourism and is
targeting the arrival of over 2.5 million tourists by 2016. I am sure
that with the addition of MRIA, Sri Lanka can now look for an additional
one million tourists for 2013.
”Some have raised questions as to why Hambantota was selected to
build the second international airport.
“One of the main reasons is the demand from the tourism sector to
start the tour by visiting wildlife parks, (Yala) enjoy the sunny
beaches in the Eastern province, cool themselves in the hill country,
see the historic city of Kandy, followed by the cultural triangle and
return via the Elephant orphanage in Pinnawela and finally enjoy
entertainment and shopping in Colombo before departing,” the Minister
He said, the Mattala airport will also support the International
Cricket Stadium, Convention Centre, harbour and most importantly the
emerging economy zone and the International IT Park. MRIA will be the
only available air strip that could land the world’s biggest aircraft,
“We have observed that there are over 100 aircraft that fly over Sri
Lanka and our aim is to get some of them to land in Sri Lanka. Already
several international airlines would be flying to MRIA, to refuel and
obtain supplies giving the country additional revenue.
”The agriculture industry too would benefit since the farmers will
get an opportunity ‘for direct exports’, eliminating the middle man.
”It is not easy to introduce a new international airport, to the
aviation companies in the world and to overcome this we have reduced the
ground operation and airport fees in Mattala. In addition we introduced
the “Open Sky Policy “to enable the landing of an aircraft anytime at
Mattala”, the Minister said. SriLankan airlines plans to establish an
Aircraft Repair and Maintenance Centre (MRO) for aircraft with the
assistance of “Lufthansa” Company in Germany thus bringing a haul of
economic benefits, the Minister said.
Veteran hotelier Chandra Wickramasinge of Maalu Maalu said the MRIA
would be a major boost for the development of tourism especially in the
Eastern Province. Tourists can now come to the East in less than three
hours,” he said.
The Colombo Airport will be modernized to cater to 7.2 million
passengers from the present capacity of six million said Chairman
Airport Aviation, Prasanna Wickramasuriya. The chairman, said they have
been marketing the MRIA for a long period and it had a sound business
model to survive.
He said “We are targeting charter flights and logistic flights to use
MRIA as it would be more viable for them as we have offered concessions.
By providing water and fuel for aircraft and maintenance services, the
port can earn extra revenue.
The Gatwick Airport in London
All operations will be through Katunayake. Aircraft landing at
Mattala will fly through Katunayake. All flights operating through
Shanghai, Beijing, Male, Riyadh and Buddha Gaya, will fly to Mattala via
”Two foreign airlines, Flydubai, and Air Arabia even before the
completion of the airport, expressed consent to start operations at
Mattala and make it a destination for their flights. ”Several other
international airlines and charter flight companies will be adding MRIA
to their radar soon. Currently, Air Arabia will operate services every
Monday and Friday and is the first international airline to launch
operations to MRIA.
The Dubai based airline will increase its frequency by two in May and
launch daily operations from September 14.
”It would make Air Arabia the first ever international airline to
have a daily frequency to MRIA and operate 14 weekly flights to Colombo
and Mattala. In addition to Flydubai, another low cost carrier in UAE,
will add MRIA as one of their destinations beginning May 3 and increase
their frequency to daily operations by the year end,” the Chairman said.
He said, “both flights touched down in MRIA for the inauguration and
picked up nearly 120 passengers on their return.
”Qatar Etihad Airlines are expected to touch down in MRIA, while
Emirates had expressed willingness to fly to Mattala. Two leading
charter operators, TUI and Enter Air, too are expected to commence
charters from next winter.
”The national carrier, SriLankan’s Male, Shanghai, Riyadh, Beijing
and some Bangkok bound flights would be operating via Mattala as
They would have 25 weekly flights touching down in Mattala. Mihin
Lanka too would operate stopover flights.
”The cargo terminal was now fully functional and the Air Arabian
management is looking at building a hotel in MRIA. It is a 50 room hotel
and the land would be provided within the airport premises.
”Two investors have forwarded proposals to set up Pilot Training
Schools in MRIA. We are currently evaluating them to ensure that MRIA is
not a white elephant and is a major contributor to take Sri Lanka
towards the Wonder of Asia”, the Chairman said.