Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA), which was once dubbed as a ghost airport by both local and foreign commentators, has suddenly turned into life becoming one of the busiest airports in the world, due to the temporary closure of Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) for the relaying of its decade-old runaway.
With the operations at BIA increasingly becoming chaotic, an increasing number of airlines has started flying in and out of MRIA carrying thousands of passengers on a daily basis.
According to MRIA officials, at least 14 airlines, including state-owned SriLankan Airlines and some charter flights, are now flying to Mattala, saving millions of dollars in foreign exchange to the country.
Mirror Business spotted a few of these flights from new airlines such as Sriwijaya Air, an Indonesian airline based in Jakarta, and Jordan Aviation, an airline based in Amman, flying in an out of MRIA through Flightradar24, a global flight tracking service that provides with real-time information.
Even when BIA was in full operation, the low-cost carrier, flydubai, has been making regular flights to Mattala since the opening of the airport. SriLankan Airlines flights to Shanghai and Beijing also used to make stopovers at MRIA.
The airport and aviation experts however question the selection of the location for Sri Lanka’s second international airport due to the presence of strong cross winds in the area, which makes a pilot’s job much harder in landing a passenger aircraft.
Also, frequent bird strikes and unavailability of parallel taxi ways and enough runaway exits have also been highlighted as major shortcomings of MRIA.
However, they do not appear to consider them as reasons to abandon the facility, which can be easily made financially viable by way of fixing some of these limitations and making the airport attractive by offering competitive handling charges, etc.
However, the coalition regime, which came into power promising full-stop to the Rajapaksa vanity projects, took no time to turn one of MRIA’s unused terminals into a warehouse for storing rice.
However, the government is reportedly finding bidders to sell the airport, likely to a Chinese operator, to settle the debt drawn from China to construct the airport.