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Mattala Airport, giant leap in Lanka's aviation



President Mahinda Rajapaksa looking at the blueprint of the Mattala Airport

Over 150 decision makers of Global Airlines, economists attached to the aviation sector and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) executive members of the decision body for global aviation matters gathered for a two day event in Beijing last Monday and Tuesday.

This was mainly to hold the IATA annual general meeting and subsequent to it global matters concerning the aviation sector were discussed.

It was disclosed that the European and US based airlines are financially bleeding while the Asian and Gulf airlines are finally making profits. In addition, it also focused attention on safety of African airlines.

One of the most important factors that was echoed was that the aviation sector could spur economic growth.

It was pointed out that over 53 million people would travel out of China this year and 90 percent of them would use airlines to travel.


Construction work in progress at the Mattala Airport

Adel Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia met Chairman, AASL Prasanna Wickramasuriya on May 15, 2012 to discuss their planned operations to the Hambantota International
Airport.

This has prompted China to build over 40 international airports in the country as they knew the potential of the aviation industry.

Back in Sri Lanka, SriLankan Airlines Chairman, Nishantha Wickremesinghe said that the airlines carried 3.5 million passengers last year. In addition, other airlines would have carried a similar number and this growth is expected to continue.

For a country targeting five million tourist arrivals in three years, one international airport is not adequate.


The foundation stone for the construction of the main passenger terminal
building at the Mattala Airport was laid by Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa. Minister of Aviation, Priyankara Jayaratne looks on.

It was very unfortunate that none of the political leaders thought of a second international airport. However this Government which made a pledge to end the 30-year-old conflict leading a humanitarian operation saw the tourism potential in the post war scenario and decided to build international harbours and airports and increase the points of entry to Sri Lanka.

Cargo

This was how the long awaited and much overdue second international airport in Mattala is shaping up. Going a step further and planning it to the future the Government has decided to make more provisions for cargo and the airport would focus only 40 percent for passenger movements.

This would enable the farmers in five nearby districts to export their produce direct giving them more revenue.

"The building of the second international airport should have been done long ago and airports bring not only revenue to the country but they would also help increase living standards of the people," the Chairman said.

He said that the airline also created aviation history when the national carrier, SriLankan Airlines joined the elite group of 'Oneworld alliance' at the beginning of the 68th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit at the World Trade Hotel.

"The quality of service maintained by SriLankan Airlines was the key to it being linked to this network," said John Slosar CEO of Cathay Pacific which assisted SriLankan Airlines to get to this alliance.

"The timing is perfect as Sri Lanka's economy is doing very well," said Tom Hortan from American Airlines.

This liaison would first add global prestige to the airline as it would be linked with 824 new destinations all over the world and it would fly alongside with some of the biggest and best brands in the airline business.

SriLankan Airlines would have additional opportunities to generate revenue with the airlines entering into a liaison with oneworld airline group which is among the top three airline alliances in the world.

Speaking after signing the agreement in this regard in China during the 68th International Air Transport Association annual general meeting in Beijing, Chairman SriLankan Airlines, Nishantha Wickramasingha said that SriLankan will get to the alliance next year flying alongside some of the biggest and best brands in the airline business.

Substantial expansion

SriLankan Airlines has virtually doubled in size in three years and plans further substantial expansion to its fleet and network in the next few years.

"We want to help contribute towards taking this country to be the Wonder of Asia and these are initiatives that we take for that endeavour," he added.

The construction on Hambantota Airport is now on track and marketing both locally and internationally is being done by Airport Aviation Authority in Sri Lanka. (AASL)

Largest travel exhibition

The AASL officials were also present at the world's largest travel exhibition ITB in Berlin last March, clearly indicating their forward thinking power.

Chairman ASSSL, Prasanna Wickramasuriya said that they are planning for the future and are investing in it now.

Members of the Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka (TAASL), a group of about 40, visited the Hambantota International Airport with the Marketing Division of Airport and Aviation recently.

The TAASL members were highly impressed after seeing the massive construction work done so far and were enthusiastic about promoting HIA to the world. They strongly believe that HIA will definitely play an important role in the air transportation service in Sri Lanka.

The airport which will be built from funds from the China Harbour Engineering Corporation, will see that the first phase will be completed by end 2012 on a 800 hectare block of land while the second phase will be built on the remaining 1,200 hectares.

The new airport will also target the arrival of a million passengers annually and the runway will also accommodate even the state-of-art A 380 aircraft, which will be 3,500 feet in length and 75 metres in width.

The Mattala airport will be used as a principal cargo hub where vegetable and fruit exporters in southern Sri Lanka will also get an opportunity for exporting their produce which are perishables to the Gulf with the minimum transit times while the tourists who will arrive there will also have the minimum transit times to holiday destinations such as Nuwara Eliya and Arugam Bay," Wickremasuriya said.

The Chairman also said that the airport would be the only environmentally friendly airport in South Asia where the Government would also be targeting obtaining Green Status as well.

The Chairman, AASL said that investment opportunities exist in direct aviation related ventures such as aircraft MROs, aircraft painting, and flying schools as well as in connected trades such as hospitality, tourism, freight forwarding, and courier services.

He also mentioned the numerous benefits that await the investors and invited them to move in early.

Sea/air cargo

He said that the sea/air cargo transshipment concept which will be employed with the Hambantota Port, the proposed International Container Terminal, the International Airport and the warehousing complex to be located close to the airport working in tandem with each other would help develop Hambantota as a cargo hub.

Many international airlines have said they would operate flights to Mattala which would make it a busy airport.

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