The Jaffna International Airport, located in the North and built with Indian assistance, will be declared open today (17) in Palaly.
President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickresminghe along with other dignitaries are scheduled to grace the inaugural event.
The airlines will operate three flights to Chennai, Tiruchirapalli and Kochi in South India.
Sri Lankan transport minister Arjuna Ranatunga said the airport marks an important development for the region as well as whole of Sri Lanka.
Marking inauguration of Jaffna International Airport, Alliance Air (the subsidiary of Air India) will launch a flight to the airport with invitees from the aviation industry on Thursday.
Jaffna will be the airline’s 55th and first international addition to the list.
The runway length has been extended from 950 to 1,400 metres to facilitate ATR 72 aircraft carrying 70 passengers.
Formerly known as Palaly Airport and Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) Palaly, the airport has a history tracing back to Second World War wherein it was built by the Royal Air Force of Britain and served as the country’s second international airport before being taken over by the Sri Lanka Air Force.
Ashwani Lohani, chairman and MD, Air India Group, said, “It is a proud moment as the second airline in Air India group goes global.”
“It brings us immense delight that after spearheading efforts connecting unique regional routes within India under UDAN, we now fly international. This will be the first nonstop service between Chennai and Jaffna,” said CS Subbiah, CEO, Alliance Air.
“Tiruchy ATC is closest to Jaffna. Therefore, initially, we would be monitoring operations between Jaffna and Chennai. Later, the Chennai ATC will take over. We also conducted a trial flight between Tiruchy and Jaffna on Tuesday,” a source added.
The operation from Tiruchy to the Island nation is scheduled for the next phase, the source added.
Under phase 2, the runway length will be extended up to 2300 metres allowing for bigger aircrafts. The decision to develop the Jaffna Airport to operate regional commercial flights was taken on August 6.
The Cabinet memorandum in this regard was submitted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to develop the airport to operate commercial flights and to promote tourism.
Sri Lankan government is also planning to develop Batticalao airport in eastern province to improve connectivity.