Mattala Airport, giant leap in Lanka's aviation
President Mahinda Rajapaksa looking at the blueprint of the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
SriLankan Airlines has virtually doubled in size in three years and
plans further substantial expansion to its fleet and network in the next
"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
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.
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.