Business Times

Mattala eyes international carriers

Mattala International Airport has generated interest among international carriers ahead of its scheduled opening on November 15. "Most airline operators expressed interest to operate to Mattala, but ultimately it comes to commercial viability," Civil Aviation Authority Director General H.M.C. Nimalsiri told the Business Times on Wednesday.

A Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) delegation of about 20 people visited the Hambantota airport site on January 13 on the invitation of the government. This was carried out as a marketing and promotional drive as part of state plans to generate interest in the second international airport in the South of the country.

The airport visit provided an opportunity for authorities to showcase the developments in Mattala, Mr. Nimalsiri said. He pointed out that in a bid to gain increased interest the government plans to provide concessions and incentives for those flying to Mattala.

These include a 50% discount on parking charges for all airlines for a period of six months. However, the government is yet to receive any response from the airlines on this subject, he said. Mr. Nimalsiri remained uncertain of the possibility of any impact on flight frequencies of airlines currently operating to the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) with the shift of airline operators to the Southern airport. Singapore International Airlines (SIA) General Manager Aldrin Arumugam told the Business Times said they were currently undecided on Mattala as they are yet to receive a formal invitation.

He pointed out that they would consider the options and assess the viability of landing at the new second international airport. Emirates Airlines Area Manager Sri Lanka and Maldives Chandana de Silva in an email interview said while the airline did not have any formal discussion on the subject they would study possibilities "at the appropriate time."

The MIA is being constructed at a cost of US$209 million of which about 50% is already spent, its engineer Mr. Lalith Warusavitharana told the Business Times. He noted a slight increase in costs due to variations amounting to approximately 5% of the total contract value.

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