Prasanna pledges to reduce congestion at BIA

BY Dinitha Rathnayake

Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga said that airport and health authorities have taken several special measures since 17 November to reduce passenger congestion at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake.

At present, a large number of passengers, including tourists, arrive in the country daily through the Katunayake airport. Complaints had been received that there was a delay in obtaining health statements from such passengers, following which President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had instructed the relevant officials to take immediate action in this regard.

Accordingly, a special discussion was held at BIA under the supervision of Ranatunga.

It was revealed that during busy times, there is a lot of passenger congestion associated with the health statement windows, and that the reason for this was that health authorities had not deployed enough officers for this purpose.

Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena had then said that 30 new public health inspectors (PHIs) will be deployed to the airport soon. Until the said deployment, it was decided to deploy 30 airport staffers to carry out this task.

It was also decided to introduce several separate counter windows and a few separate windows for other passengers to check the health statements of the relevant airlines, including for tourists who have been fully vaccinated and are arriving in the country through the airport.

At present, airport authorities have provided the necessary facilities to all passengers, including tourists arriving in the country through BIA, to complete their health statements through the online system. One can complete the health statement by visiting the airport webpage.

Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd. (AASL) had pointed out that the return flights will be able to depart from the airport without any delay.

With the reopening of the country after the pandemic and the relaxation of health guidelines, the number of daily passenger operations at BIA has increased, where about 12,000 daily passenger operations take place at the airport. There have been 746,085 passenger operations at the airport since January, of which, 409,496 were arrivals and 336,589 were departures.

The passenger capacity of BIA is six million annually. Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, its annual passenger traffic was over 10 million. Minister Ranatunga also revealed that the number of passenger operations at the airport could be increased to 15 million annually after the completion of the development projects currently underway at the airport.