‘Airlines did not deliver on Palaly promise’
- Aviation Minister says Airlines pledged to fly to Palalay when opening
- Promises concessions if airlines operate to and from Northern airport
By Imesh Ranasinghe
The airlines that promised to operate flights to and from Palaly International Airport did not fulfill their promise by bringing in flights, according to Minister of Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva, who stated that the Government would provide concessions if these airlines brought flights to the Palaly Airport.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday (22), the Minister said that the Palaly Airport did not operate any international flights in the last two years as the airlines that promised to bring in these flights did not do so.
“A few airlines promised that they would operate flights to and from Palaly, and therefore they wanted us to open the airport to the public soon, but until now, no one brought flights to Palaly,” he said.
Moreover, the Minister said that although Sri Lankan authorities sent several messages to the relevant airlines to operate flights at Palaly Airport, none responded.
In June 2022, the Minister had said that Palaly Airport would resume international flights to India by July, but this is yet to happen.
Opposition MP M.A. Sumanthiran said that the airlines were concerned about the airport taxes at the Palaly International Airport, which would result in higher airfare, and hence requested Minister de Silva to waive the airport taxes to allow the airlines to come in.
However, the Minister responded that if the airlines could first show their commitment by bringing in flights, the authorities would then discuss the concessions that could be provided by the Government.
The Palaly International Airport was opened in 2019 by the previous Yahapalana Government with an investment of Rs. 2.25 billion by both the Sri Lankan and the Indian governments.
India’s Alliance Air previously conducted three weekly flights from Chennai to Palaly. However, after the change of government in Sri Lanka in November 2019, these flight operations were halted.
Further, the Minister acknowledged that the Ratmalana Airport was constructed to resume international flights earlier this year without any proper technical evaluation.
The Ratmalana Airport saw an investment of Rs. 220 million, which included a new runway, a new entrance, a new passenger terminal, a duty-free shop, and several other infrastructure facilities, with Maldivian Airlines scheduled to operate three weekly flights between Male and Ratmalana.
However, the Minister said that these flights were not operated either, and that Maldivan Airlines had put forward various reasons for this.
Therefore, he said, the authorities are evaluating methods on how to continue with the airport’s operations, but added that Sri Lanka is not seeing a proper return on the investment made in the airport.
Also, he said, the Government would like to see an investor for the Mattala International Airport, as it is making a loss of Rs. 100 million per month.