Aug 30 (NIA) – A Chinese airline has expressed interest in landing its flight at the Mattala Rajapakse International Airport, in southern Sri Lanka, as a transit point between China and Maldives, a Sri Lankan minister told NIA.
The Mattala Rajapakse International Airport, arguably the world’s emptiest airports – is a white elephant project built by the Mahinda Rajapakse government using a US 190 million dollar loan from the Exim Bank of China. The total cost of the Airport was US 210 million dollars.
The Minister said that in order to make the airport earn some revenue, a Chinese airline was keen on landing its flights there, as a transit to the Maldives, which the government says would boost Sri Lankan tourism as well.
In addition, the government is also discussing a proposal to use the MRIA as a airline repair center which would be managed by a Chinese company.
Forbes, in a recent report said that like the other projects built by the Rajapakse regime, MRIA was built and put into operation by all out fiat, rather than by market forces.
Sri Lanka’s national airline carrier, SriLankan Airlines, was required to open a second hub there, and there were once flights to and from Bangkok, Beijing, Chennai, Jeddah, Malé, Riyadh, Shanghai, Sharjah, Tiruchirappalli, and Colombo.
However, there was little demand or need for most of these flights.
According to government data, in 2014, roughly 3,000 flights to the airport served just 21,000 passengers, a rate of just seven passengers per plane.
Needless to say, most airlines and the airport itself recorded big loses. Forbes has already described it as the ‘World’s Emptiest Airport’.
In May 2014, while Rajapaksa was still President, Sri Lanka’s then minister of civil aviation admitted to Parliament that the airport had only earned about 16,000 Sri Lankan rupees, or $120, in revenue for the entire month, less than what a small roadside restaurant might earn in a day.