The Government has further slashed aircraft handling charges and introduced a string of promotional discounts at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) in a bid to attract more flights there. A fifty per cent discount in landing and parking charges which was earlier valid only for this year has now been extended up to March 2014, when the idling airport will celebrate one year in operation.
A minimum landing charge of US$ 250 which had been imposed on international commercial airlines has also been lifted. These concessions were published in a Gazette signed by Civil Aviation Minister Priyankara Jayaratne.
An earlier gazette published in March 2013 described the landing charges as US$ 4 per metric tonne of the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft or part thereof, “subject to a minimum charge of United States Dollars 250 per landing”. The last requirement has been dropped in the new Gazette, dated July 5, 2013.
It also states that, notwithstanding the landing and parking charges specified in the Gazette, certain categories of operators will be afforded promotional discount rates. These include new charter flight operators; new budget carriers; present budget carriers operating to Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), for any additional frequencies to MRIA; present legacy carriers operating to BIA, for any additional frequencies to MRIA; and new legacy carriers.
Legacy carriers are conventional airlines (such as SriLankan Airlines) that provide full service, as opposed to budget carriers.
Other discounts on landing and parking charges — 25 per cent in 2015 and 2016 —remain the same. The same concession was initially offered for 2017 but this has now been removed.
Airline industry sources said MRIA had failed to attract traffic despite incentives to international airlines. At present, only 14 flights operate (one way) a week from the airport. Most of these are SriLankan Airlines aircraft that land at Mattala on their way to BIA or to an overseas destination (for example, Male or Bangkok).
The only other international airline that operates flights to MRIA is Flydubai. Airport officials were cagey when asked for information on how MRIA has fared since its opening in March. Flight schedules are still not published. In contrast, 24 airlines use BIA and there were 67 flights (one way) to the airport yesterday alone
By Namini Wijedasa