Colombo, Feb 14 (NIA) – Sri Lanka’s Chinese funded Mattala Rajapakse International Airport (MRIA), situated in southern Hambantota, has begun welcoming over 800 passengers and 4 international airlines per day, following the partial closure of the country’s main Bandaranaike International Airport.
Airport Manager at MRIA, Upul Kalansooriya told NewsIn.Asia that an Indonesian flight, ‘Sriwijaya Air’ had begun chartering flights twice weekly while Sri Lankan Airlines had launched direct flights to Shanghai and Beijing, from MRIA. Flydubai also brings in passengers from Dubai.
Kalansooriya said the airport now recorded a ‘huge rise’ in passenger traffic with 800 passenger arrivals and 400 departures recorded daily. Last year, only 40 to 50 passengers arrived and departed from the airport daily.
“Due to this our profit revenue has also increased. We are hoping this rise in passenger traffic will continue,” he said.
In addition to passenger airlines, flights were also now landing at MRIA for re-fueling purposes.
A source from the aviation industry said the government’s aim was to transform MRIA into a profitable venture as the airport was incurring a heavy loss since its opening in 2013.
The source said that despite making minimal profits with the increase in passenger traffic this year, MRIA still required atleast 10 to 15 airlines to land per day in order to stop incurring losses.
MRIA which is located in Sri Lanka’s southern Hambantota district, was built by Chinese funding under the previous Mahinda Rajapakse era.
The Airport was dubbed as the World’s Emptiest International Airport by Forbes in early 2016 due to very little, or no traffic recorded.
The airport has a 12,000 square meter terminal building, 12 check-in counters, two gates, a runway long enough to handle the largest commercial jets, and capacity for one million passengers per year.
It was constructed at a cost of $209 million, out of which $190 million came in the form of loans from China. It was opened by Mahinda Rajapakse in 2013.
In 2014, legislators said the airport recorded a profit of only Rs.16,000 monthly.