There was no feasibility study conducted by the relevant officials on commencing of operations at Mattala International Airport, Head of Revenue Management, Planning and Commercial at SriLankan Airlines, Sumudu Upatissa told the PCoI inquiry into irregularities at SriLankan Airlines, SriLankan Catering and Mihin Lanka yesterday.
When Sate Counsel Chathura Gunathilake questioned about starting the operations at Mattala and feasibility study that has to be conducted before that, witness said that there should be a feasibility study for every project but there was no such study done when starting operations at Mattala Airport.
Earlier, testifying before the Commission, Director Air Transport and Economic Regulation of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Rehan Mario Wanniappa informed the Commission the airlines which used to operate via Colombo to Mattala has been granted all nine air traffic rights, since those airlines refused to carry out their operations in the airport due to declining passengers and specially bird strike.
Chairman of the PCoI observed that a number of board minutes of SriLankan Airlines had revealed that there was some sort of government interference within the period of 2011/12/13 and 2014 when selecting General Sales Agents (GSAs) for several destinations.
“According to the evidence on the route Moscow, it had mentioned that there were some government correspondents and also the board minutes revealed there was some sort of government interference,” Justice Goonaratne said.
Responding to the statement made by Justice Goonaratne, Head of Revenue Management, Planning and Commercial at SriLankan Airlines, Sumudu Upatissa informed the Commission that SriLankan had to work in line with the National Policy during those days within the routes such as Moscow, Rome and France.
“During this period the country had ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya’ and in some occasions the airlines also had work according to the Government’s decision,” he said.
However, earlier it was revealed at the Commission that former Sri Lankan ambassador to Russia, Udayanga Weeratunga had recommended a company named ‘Sri Lanka Limited’ to be appointed as GSA for the SriLankan Airlines in Russia.
Writing to the SriLankan country manager in Russia in 2011, Weeratunga has said that Sri Lanka Limited could help the country build closer relationships with Russia and Ukraine.
Upatissa said that SriLankan Airlines and Mattala International Airport incurred a loss of USD 30.6 million in 2012/13/14 and 2015 as an entire route loss and half of this amount includes the losses which incurred due regular flights handling at Mattala International Airport.
He said that the loss of USD 10.1 million incurred due to regular flights handling at Mattala International Airport and added that it was an unnecessary burden to SriLankan to handle regular flights to Mattala Airport.
Mr. Upatissa also said that SriLankan had decided to pulled out flights from Mattala in January 2015 due to it had spent huge cost at the airport and cause losses. (Yoshitha Perera)