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Sri Lanka’s Mattala Airport gets busy in Covid-19 crisis, eyes scheduled flights

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s little used Mattala Airport has heightened activity amid a Coronavirus crisis with over 50 flights in the past two months and is eying scheduled flights in the post-Covid era, the airport agency said.

The airport had been handling ship crew changes and repatriation flights, which had raised the activity levels of the airport, which has had hardly any scheduled flights before the crisis.

Indigo Airlines had flown ATR72 and Airbus A320 aircraft into Mattala 20 times during June 26 to July 31.

Representatives who had visited Mattala, had had shown their willingness to start scheduled flights once flight restrictions are removed, Shehan Sumanasekara, Director, Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited, the state airport agency said in a statement.

“In addition to that, airlines such as Air India, Air Asia, Alliance Air, Myanmar Airlines, and Indigo Airlines to name a few,has had initial discussions with us to commence scheduled flight operations,” he said.

In June and July 2020, Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport had handled more than 50 flights involving 2,188 passengers.

Due to health and safety measures adopted by Sri Lanka at Bandaranaike International Airport and the close proximity to Galle Port, Mattala has been used.

“Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, the aviation industry has been severely affected,” Sumanasekera said.

“However, there was a growing demand for repatriation flights and international ship crew changes.

“Considering the developing infrastructure, service levels and the convenience, airlines considered MRIA positively.

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Sumanasekara said Sri Lanka’s current administration had developed a strategic plan to make use of Mattala airport after it was neglected during the previous five years.

“We have understood the strategic importance of Sri Lanka’s geographical location at the southernmost tip of the Indian Ocean right in the center of aviation and maritime routes connecting the East and the West,” Sumanasekara said.

Mattala airport is giving attractive fees and full open skies involving all nine freedoms of the air for foreign airlines to operate, he said.

Mattala was close to several tourism hotspots in the South and in the East of Sri Lanka. It was also close to Hambantota Port.

There was land available to invest in aviation related ventures and sea-air transhipment of cargo. (Colombo/Aug03/2020)