ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka plans to set up an aircraft and maintenance and repair overhaul (MRO) unit, a transit hotel, expand duty-free services at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport as it draws more traffic, an official said.
“The airport at Mattala will be establishing an MRO facility with foreign investments to capture the regional business markets for aircraft, engine repairs and checks,” Shehan Sumanasekara, Chief Director-Operations, Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) told EconomyNext.
SriLankan Airlines already has an MRO at the main Bandaranaike Airport which does C-checks and other services for the number of airlines.
Mattala has more space to do the business in a larger scale, he said.
Over the past year, Mattala Airport has developed a business in crew changes and aircraft layovers.
“W e intend to establish a transit hotel by 2022 in the airport premises which will give an immediate solution to many tourist and crew who are either transiting with long connecting times or passengers or crew with layovers in Sri Lanka,” he said.
Mattala Airport will also expand its duty-free offering beyond the core beverages, confectionary and perfume categories and add Sri Lankan products.
The airport will to expands its café and restaurant operations, which could cater to not only air passengers but also other travellers who are passing by.
Using the airport the authorities want to boost travel to nearby tourist destinations.
“We intend to attract many travellers to Kataragama and Yala who will have easy access to the airport making it a destination for families to enjoy a meal at the airport which many airports around the world has successfully executed,” he said.
Sumanasekera said last year that the AASL intended to collaborate with tour operators and international airlines to promote Mattala as a ‘gateway to exotic destinations.’
Mattala is now being used by several regular charters bringing post-Covid-19 tourists from January. A crew change business involving air and seamen was also developed during Coronavirus restrictions.
SriLankan, Qatar, Etihad, Emirates, IndiGo Airlines, Maldives Air, Ukraine International, SkyUp Airlines, Turkish Airlines, China Eastern, Oman Airlines, Singapore, Kuwait Airways and Salam Airways, AirAstana and SCAT Airlines from Kazakhstan operate regular charters or fly to the airport from time to time.
Since the opening of Sri Lanka’s airports in January 21st to February 25, 2021, Mattala has had 68 aircraft movements, 6,317 passengers, and 2,225 tourist arrivals.
Overall, from December 2020 to March 09, 2021, MRIA has had 4635 tourists arrivals.
The Bandaranaike International Airport has had 1,178 aircraft movements, 35,387 passenger movements and 978 tourist arrivals. (Colombo/Mar10/2021-UPDATE I)