The Sunday Leader

Concerns Over Mattala Performance

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

The Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) that has already cost the government US$ 209 million (Rs 26.6 billion) with a US$ 190 million loan component from the Exim Bank of China flew into more controversy last week with Air Arabia cancelling its flights to Mattala.
The performance of the MRIA has cast doubts on whether the authorities would be able to earn sufficient revenue to repay the Chinese loan. The government has also asked for US$ 72 million more to complete the MRIA.

The four airlines that operate flights to Mattala are SriLankan Airlines, Mihin Lanka, Air Arabia and Fly Dubai. Air Arabia was the first foreign airline to fly to Mattala.

According to the Aviation Ministry, since the opening of the MRIA on March 18, there have been 180 aircraft movements at the airport by April 30.

Aviation Ministry Secretary Dr Ravindra Ruberu said that there have been 6,000 passenger movements at the MRIA between March 18 and April 30.

However, there are a large number of locals who use the SriLankan Airlines special offer to fly from Katunayake to Mattala. According to Airport sources, this number amounts to several thousands.

Meanwhile, Aviation Minister Priyankara Jayaratne said that Air Arabia would be resuming flights to Mattala shortly.

He said the government had agreed to an open skies policy with Air Arabia and the airline has agreed to resume flights to Mattala.

He added that the CEO of Air Arabia is to visit Sri Lanka on the 15th of this month for further discussions.

When contacted, Air Arabia Country Manager, Ramly Vi Cassin was unable to make a comment since he was travelling out of Colombo.

However, Minister Jayaratne said that four other Middle Eastern airlines have also expressed interest in operating flights to Mattala, but was unable to name the airlines.

“We will have discussions with these airlines shortly,” he said.

According to him, discussions are also underway with Emirates Airlines to get the airline’s European flights to use the MRIA.

Explaining further, Jayaratne said the second phase of the MRIA project would commence next January.

According to a memorandum submitted to the Cabinet by Minister Jayaratne last year, extra money is required for two purposes – cost on

additional works amounting to US$ 45.5 million and a ‘price escalation’ component amounting to US$ 26.5 million.

When asked if the government would be in a position to repay the Chinese loan, given that the airport is yet to make a financial impact, the

Minister said that the loan is for 20 years with a five-year grace period.

“We have five years to start earning revenue,” Jayaratne said.

1 Comment for “Concerns Over Mattala Performance”

  1. Jesri

    6000 pax/180 flights = 33 pax per flight.
    I don’t think so.

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