ECONOMYNEXT- Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, has expressed interest in flying to the Palaly Airport in Sri Lanka’s northern Jaffna peninsular, an official said.
"Some Indian Airlines (have expressed interest), one airline is called Alliance Air," Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Air Transport and Economic Regluation Director Rayhan Wanniappa said.
He was responding to reporters in Colombo.
Alliance Air currently flies to 54 cities within India according to its website.
The airline operates 18 ATR 72-600 (70/72 seat) aircraft and one ATR 42-320 (48-seater) which Palaly is able to accommodate.
Sri Lanka has previously helped India’s private airlines go abroad, when a BJP administration and a previous administration headed by Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was in office.
Sri Lanka’s trade negotiation team, which included current ICT Agency chief Rohan Samarjiva, unilaterally eliminated visa’s and requested that Indian private airlines be allowed to fly to Sri Lanka because Indian state airlines did not have enough aircraft to fly to Sri Lanka.
At the time, SriLankan Airlines, under Emirates management was buying seats from the bilateral aviation agreement to fly frequencies above the limit set by a deal
Sri Lanka’s Palaly airport will eventually be upgraded to handle airliners as big as the Boeing B737 and Airbus A320.
The government is currently developing Palaly to become Sri Lanka’s third international airport.
"Construction work is currently happening and operations will commence around October," Wanniappa said
Currently, residents in Jaffna, who have close links with India, have to make an eight-hour drive to Colombo to take a one-hour flight to the southern Indian states.
Palaly is currently operated by the Sri Lanka Air Force. It was a key air base during the country’s 25-year civil war which ended in 2009.
A Finance Ministry report said that the Airports and Aviation Services Ltd (AASL) which manages civil airports in Sri Lanka, will operate and manage Palaly following the 2 billion rupee upgrade.
Emigration and Immigration Controller P. Ratnayake said that Customs and Immigration services can be set up at the airport on short notice.
The cabinet of ministers in August directed the border control agencies to set up operations in Palaly.
"I have been requested now. When they they announce date of operation we will be ready," Ratnayake said. (Colombo/Aug22/2019)