India's new international airport inaugurates in Kushinagar (formerly Kushinara Nuwara). SriLankan Airlines' UL 1147 was the first flight to land at the new Kushinagar International Airport. The first flight was sent to India as per the special request made by the Prime Minister of India, H.E. Narendra Modi from the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The flight took off at 5.20 a.m. this morning with 100 Buddhist monks including the Anunayake theros of all three main sects aboard. A special delegation led by Minister of Sports, Hon.Namal Rajapakse also visited India. The delegation consisted of State Ministers, Hon. Vijitha Berugoda, Hon.Sisira Jayakody, Hon.DV Chanaka and Hon. Jeevan Thondaman. The Prime Minister of India arrived at the new Kushinagar International Airport to declare open the airport and welcome the guests at the airport. At the request of the Prime Minister of India, the Kapila Vastu Relics placed at the Waskaduwe Temple were flown by this flight in order to pay homage to the Buddhist devotees of Kushinagar.
Minister of Tourism, Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga and Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, H.E. Gopal Bagle were also present at the departure of this special flight from BIA Katunayake.
The Indian High Commissioner said that this was a historic occasion for India as well as Sri Lanka. He said the visit would help expand bilateral ties between the two countries. Minister of Tourism, Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga said the Katunayake-Kushinagar direct flight would be a new chapter in religious ties between the two countries. The Minister said that this will be more convenient for Sri Lankan Buddhist pilgrims going to Dambadiva in the future.
Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport is set to attract more tourists. Accordingly, steps will be taken to introduce tourism packages in the future, said Minister of Tourism, Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga.
Special relief packages have already been introduced for flights operating at Mattala International Airport. The airport has been exempted from export tax for a period of two years and has also been given one year concession period for landing and parking charges. The Minister said that a special attention has been paid to improve the hotel facilities associated with the airport in promoting Mattala International Airport as a tourist attraction.
The government is also working to improve facilities at the Mattala Airport. Arrangements have been made to modernize the existing maintenance building to establish a one stop cargo screening facility. Cabinet approval has been obtained for this purpose. It is also planning to start aircraft repairs, with the aim of providing services to foreign aircraft. Minor maintenances of aircrafts are expected to be done at the Mattala Airport in the near future. A feasibility study has also been conducted to operate the aircraft maintenance and engine repairs at Mattala. The Minister also stated that steps are being taken to complete the relevant infrastructure and other facilities.
Air cargo operations are also expected to be expanded at Mattala Rajapaksa Airport. Accordingly, it is planned to operate 06 cargo planes per week in the future, said Minister, Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga. SriLankan Airlines has already commenced cargo handling services. About 07 aircrafts, including 03 wide body aircrafts, have been deployed for cargo transport. The Minister further stated that steps are being taken to make Mattala Rajapaksa Airport a more active airport within the next year.
Minister of Tourism, Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga has instructed the officials to resume Colombo -Jaffna flights which were suspended due to the Covid pandemic. Accordingly, the flights are scheduled to resume in the middle of next month.
Flights from Colombo-Ratmalana Airport to Jaffna-Palaly Airport were operated twice a week before the country was closed down in March last year. It could not be restarted due to the Covid pandemic. The Minister has instructed that flights be resumed adhering to the health guidelines. The Minister has also instructed the Airport and the Aviation Services Company to look into the possibility of making daily domestic flights between Colombo and Jaffna which were operated twice a week before the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.
Meanwhile, the government is focusing on the speedy resumption of Jaffna-Chennai direct flights which were suspended due to the Covid pandemic. It will be also done according to health guidelines. The government has also focused on the development of the Palaly Airport in Jaffna, which has been hampered by the Covid outbreak. Special attention will also be paid in that regard in the future.
Jaffna Palaly Airport was established during the Second World War. It became Sri Lanka's second international airport after independence and Air Ceylon operated flights to South Indian destinations. LTTE terrorism disrupted operations at Palaly Airport after 1980 and in 2002 it came under the control of the Sri Lanka Air Force. The re-building of this airport as an international airport commenced in 2010 with the end of the LTTE terrorist war during the reign of President, H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Batticaloa Airport launches Joy Rides for local and foreign tourists. It is being implemented on the instructions of Minister of Tourism, Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga.
Its first program was launched recently. Joy Rides is a short-haul flight that takes passengers to the sky around the airport. Accordingly, 36 passengers from 03 aircraft joined the tour last week and they spent about half an hour in the skies around the Batticaloa Airport.
The government also plans to develop the Batticaloa Airport as a domestic airport. This Joy Rides concept was implemented as its inception. This joy ride is currently operating at the Batticaloa Airport and it is expected to operate the same at the Ratmalana and Jaffna airports in the near future.
The Batticaloa Airport, which was established in 1958 under the Civil Aviation Department, was handed over to the Air Force in 1983. During the last Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government (2012), the runway at the Batticaloa Airport was upgraded and operated as a domestic airport.
In 2018, there were 1180 flight operations, in 2019 there were 864 flight operations and in 2020 there were 174 flight operations, despite the Covid pandemic. With an area of 348 acres, the Batticaloa Airport has a runway which is 1368 meters long and 30 meters wide. The airport can handle aircraft operations that can serve up to 60 passengers.
Nearly a thousand Russian tourists are expected to arrive in Sri Lanka next month. Russian tourists are booking all SriLankan flights from Moscow to Colombo in October. According to SriLankan Airlines, bookings for these flights are currently being completed.
SriLankan Airlines operates a weekly direct flight from Moscow, Russia. SriLankan Airlines' UL 534 is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka from Moscow on October 09, October 16, October 23 and October 30.
After six years, SriLankan Airlines commenced direct flights between Russia and Sri Lanka on July 31. Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) launched a special tourism promotion campaign in Russia on September 3. It was implemented on the instructions of Minister of Tourism, Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga. Due to the Covid pandemic, Sri Lanka had suspended its participation in foreign tourism promotion campaigns and resumed it while participating in a tourism exhibition in Moscow, Russia. The Minister of Tourism held several special rounds of discussions with the local media, social media and representatives of tourism organizations in Russia.
The Minister instructed SriLankan Airlines to introduce a special promotional offer for Russian tourists. Accordingly, SriLankan Airlines has introduced the 'Bye One Get One' offer. This offer has made Sri Lanka more attractive to Russian tourists.
The highest number of Russian tourists arrived in Sri Lanka in 2019. The number of Russian tourists who visited Sri Lanka that year was around 86,000. Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority reports that 49,397 Russian tourists have arrived in Sri Lanka by March 2020, despite travel restrictions due to the Covid pandemic. The next two months are expected to see a significant increase in Russian tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka.
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