High Commissioner to Sri Lanka indicates India’s willingness to support Palaly airport expansion in Jaffna


India is ready to support and work with the government of Sri Lanka in upgrading and expanding the facilities at the Palaly international airport in Jaffna, according to Gopal Baglay, Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.

In a recorded speech played at an event at the airport on Monday to mark the resumption of flight services by the Alliance Air on the Chennai-Jaffna-Chennai sector, Mr. Baglay, who thanked the Sri Lankan government for the development, pointed out that direct and quick air travel between India and Jaffna and other places in Sri Lanka would “significantly enhance” trade and tourism. It would especially benefit the small and medium segments of the business apart from strengthening the traditional ties between the people of the two countries.

In light of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chennai-Jaffna services were suspended in mid-March 2020 following the closure of the airport. They were in operation for five months from November 11, 2019, with a frequency of three flights a week. “During the period, 142 flight services were operated in the sector, carrying a total of 4,441 passengers,” Chairman of Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka), Maj. General (retd.) G. A. Chandrasiri told The Hindu.

Upon resumption, there will be four flights (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) a week. The Jaffna-bound flight will leave Chennai at 9.25 a.m. and reach the destination by 10.50 a.m. The return flight will depart Jaffna at 11.50 a.m. and reach Chennai at 1.15 p.m. The inaugural flight from Chennai on Monday carried a handful of passengers including Vineet Sood, CEO of the airlines, Alliance Air.

At the airport, Sri Lanka’s Tourism Minister Harin Fernando, Northern Province Governor Jeevan Thiagarajah and Raakesh Natraj, India’s Consul General in Jaffna were among those who received the first set of passengers.

Mr. Baglay told the gathering that New Delhi, which was supporting an expansion project of the Kankesanthurai (KKS) harbour, was working “very closely” with Colombo for the early resumption of ferry services between KKS and various points in India, including Karaikal.

Emphasising the need for tapping the Indian market more in developing Sri Lanka’s tourism sector, Mr. Fernando suggested that the Chennai-Jaffna sector be expanded to cover Ratmalana, the old airport of Colombo. He requested the airlines to spare one aircraft for domestic operations in Sri Lanka which, according to the Minister, had nine domestic airports. As for international services, Mr. Fernando gave an account of how different airlines were showing greater interest in running the services for Colombo.

(The journalist covered the event to mark the resumption of flight services on the invitation of Alliance Air)


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