The Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) is gearing, through expansion and new development, to handle 15 million passengers and 350,000 metric tons of cargo by 2015 compared to six million passengers and 250,000 metric tons of cargo last year, according to Prasanna Wickramasuriya, Chairman - Airports and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd (AASK).
Speaking at the American Chamber of in Sri Lanka (AmCham) seminar on “The Future of The Aviation Industry in Sri Lanka” in Colombo last week, he said the BIA is capable of handling 25 air side movements (landing and take-off), during the busy hour. At present, it is operating close to these capacity figures and last year the passenger movement figure has even been exceeded.
Mr Wickramasuriya’s presentation covered the present status of the Sri Lankan aviation industry and the plans for its future.
He said the Mahinda Chinthana Vision for the future envisages that Sri Lanka becomes an Aviation Hub among other things.
Mr Wickramasuriya stated that in becoming an aviation hub there are many factors that are poised in Sri Lanka’s favour and there are several things that must be put in place as well. In order to cater to the growing demand for capacity at BIA, the AASL plans to undertake the 2nd stage of phase 2 of the BIA development project that has been carried out in a phased manner over a long time period.
On conclusion of this phase of the project, the passenger handling capacity will rise by an additional seven million movements per year. This will include an additional pier on the western side parallel to the existing pier, 2-level terminal for departure and arrival as found in most major airports, new domestic terminal and a brand new duty free shopping arcade.
Speaking about the domestic aviation sector, Mr Wickramasuriya expressed the view that although Sri Lanka is a small island, an effective domestic aviation network linking major locations and the international airports in the island would serve the natioal interests very well.
The main advantage for airlines would be the ability to offer ultimate destinations like Sigiriya or Ampara from the passengers’ point of origin. The part of AASL Chairman’s presentation that dealt with the new international airport being constructed at Mattala, Hambantota attracted wide interest from the audience. Mr Wickramasuriya stated that the new airport from its initial construction through its subsequent operations will be very environment friendly. It is being developed as a model airport city.
Mr Wickramasuriya also spoke of the opportunities for the freight forwarding industry for air-sea transshipment in conjunction with Hambantota Port and for the tourism industry to promote Fly-Cruise packages where the tourists arrive by sea and return by air. This is gaining popularity worldwide as an attractive holiday option for tourists who cannot afford the time for a two-way voyage, he added.
The event was attended by around 120 participants including industry specialists and other eminent personalities. It was sponsored by Infotechs (Pvt) Ltd.