COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – SriLankan Airlines is to return a VIP conversion kit that transformed Airbus passenger aircraft into a luxury cabin for the use of ousted president Mahinda Rajapaka and his entourage, a government spokesman said.
Rajitha Senaratna, Minister of Health and Indigenous Medicine said the kit cost 15 million US dollars and creates a cabin to seat 12 VIPs by removing 160 seats.
"The VIP kit enables travel like a king," he told a news conference. "Installing it means 148 people lose seats on a 298-passnger capacity Airbus aircraft.
"We said we don’t want it. We want to ensure normal passenger travel," Senaratna said.
The kit had been provided free by Airbus Group, European aircraft-manufacturing consortium, to the national carrier because of their long-standing business relationship.
The loss-making SriLankan Airlines operates a fleet of Airbus aircraft and is in the middle of a re-fleeting exercise, replacing older planes with new ones.
Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake also mentioned the VIP kit when presenting the government’s interim budget in parliament Thursday.
"Sri Lanka has an unreasonable gap between the rich and the poor and very little effort
had been made to bridge the gap," he said.
"The recent Airbus purchases made by the loss-making national air line brings out another wanton exercise of utter waste where a VIP kit had been attached valued at 15 million dollars (equivalent to 1.95 billion rupees) offered free of charge."
Karunanayake asked why the cost of new Airbus purchases had not been renegotiated without including luxury equipment.
"Or is it another episode under the mega-deal category? Our government will be alert and focused to ensure wastages of this nature will not recur."