The decision by the Sri Lankan civil aviation authorities to grant day-by-day approval for Qatar Airways’ third flight has caused turbulence in Colombo-Doha open skies.
After the Middle Eastern carrier filed for three daily flights from the previous two, the Government had granted approval for the operation of the additional inaugural flight on Monday. That approval was stated as “an exceptional” basis. Thereafter, Tuesday’s flight too was approved. This form of ‘piecemeal’ approval is unconventional under bilateral agreements, aviation sources claimed.
By yesterday evening, however, the now customary day-by-day approval hadn’t come through for Wednesday’s additional flight, causing confusion in airline circles.
The third flight of Qatar Airways during the past two days had arrived in the early hours whilst the other two flights are operated in the mornings and afternoons.
There was speculation last night that despite not getting approval, Qatar Airways was planning to operate the third early morning flight on the strength of the open-ended open skies deal between the two countries.
Analysts said that if Qatar operates the third flight, Sri Lankan civil aviation authorities will have to either turn it away mid-air refusing landing rights in Colombo or let it land but refuse unloading of passengers. Qatar operates an Airbus A321 which can carry over 200 passengers.
Qatar Airlines, which is owned by the Doha Government, has issued severe warning of serious repercussions on Sri Lanka if the third daily frequency isn’t granted, which it said was a legitimate request under the type of open skies deal between the two countries.
The Sri Lankan authorities have been wary of Qatar’s request because it, in its opinion, would endanger the viability of SriLankan Airlines in the heavy-traffic Colombo-Doha sector. (Daily FT)