Costliest trip to UK?
President Rajapaksa’s semi-official visit to Britain last week to be the chief guest at the passing out parade of his son Yoshitha from the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth might prove to be one of the costliest visits by a Lankan leader to that country.
Following the alleged tussle with the national carrier over obtaining of seats on a SriLankan flight for a return flight from London, the Presidential entourage made use of a special flight sent from Colombo by the Government owned budget carrier Mihin Air to fly back. Such a Mihin special flight was also used by the Presidential entourage for the official trip to Japan that preceded the trip to London. Aviation sources estimate the cost of operating the two-way flights to Narita and London to the tax payer to be more than Rs. 25 million on the basis that the wet-leased airbus A-320 is hired at US$ 2750 per hour and the aircraft burning some 800 US gallons of fuel per hour at US$2.60 per gallon. In addition to these two costs, the aircraft also had to incur landing charges, ground handling charges, and communication charges. The two return flights to Narita and London had the planes occupied on those journeys for three to four days.
Since the Mihin aircraft had landed at Luton, the Presidential entourage had been ferried back and forth between Dartmouth and Luton by helicopter.