Suresh Perera, in The Island, 7 December 2014 where the title is “Fifth consecutive ‘Airport Christmas Shopping Festival’ launched”
Sri Lanka is now negotiating with many international carriers, including Etihad and Oman Air, which have earmarked the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) at Mattala as a proposed alternate destination in Sri Lanka, a top aviation industry official said last week. “Discussions are continuing with many airlines and we are optimistic of a positive outcome as MRIA has an A380 facilitated runway”, says Prasanna Wickramasuriya, Chairman, Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited.
Prasanna Wickramasuriya, Chairman, AASL, with Aravinda de Silva and other senior officials view the brand new Chery J3 car offered as the grand prize, at last week’s launch of the ‘Airport Christmas Shopping Festival’ at the BIA. (Pic by Sujatha Jayarathna)
Pic from www.airliners.net
The A380 is the biggest aircraft in the world’s aviation fleet and even in the case of an emergency or for technical reasons, such a carrier can touch down in Sri Lanka’s second international airport, he said. “We should be proud to have two gateways to the world”. “Airlines from Korea, Turkey and British Airways are also now operating to Colombo. This had never happened before. Sri Lanka’s skies are considered one of the safest in the world in the post-war period”, Wickramasuriya told journalists at the launch of the fifth consecutive ‘Airport Christmas Shopping Festival’ at the Departure Lounge of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on Friday.
He said that as a relatively new international airport, MRIA is “doing well” with 4,222 aircraft movements and a revenue of Rs. 105 million generated up to September 2014. “We are not worried about negative perceptions on this modern facility, which has contributed significantly towards the objective of achieving regional aviation hub status”.
MRIA has been doing extremely well from day one itself with SriLankan Airlines, Mihin Lanka, Fly Dubai and Rotana Jet flying into Sri Lanka’s second international airport over the past one and a half years, he asserted. “We are working on bringing down more global carriers”.
With the Magampura port situated 16 miles away from MRIA, Sri Lanka can also be developed as a sea-air cargo trans-shipment hub, the Chairman stressed. “With maintenance, repair and overhaul operations and other aviation-related activities on the cards, Mattala is emerging as a fully-fledged nerve centre in the South”.
Referring to passenger traffic at the modernized BIA, Wickramasuriya noted that there is an upward trend, and the growing volumes are a positive pointer that Sri Lanka’s key gateway outside the metropolis is on par with a well-patronized regional hub. He said that with the country’s security situation improving after 2009, passengers passing through the BIA leapt to 7.4 million in 2013 from an earlier 4.2 million. There has been a 3.2% increase in passenger traffic from 2009 to end 2013. Recalling the LTTE raid on the BIA in 2001, he said it was a dark era when everybody lived in fear. Many foreigners kept away as violence rocked the country and even airport staff and duty free operators were scared to report for work. That reign of terror is no more.
Deputy Chairman, Ideal Group of Companies, former national cricketer, Aravinda de Silva complimented Chairman Wickramasuriya for ensuring passenger convenience, comfort and safety at the BIA.
Recounting the days he played cricket, he said that after long haul flights from England or Australia on economy class, the team had to kick their heels for hours to collect their baggage, but the situation had changed dramatically now.
“It was an unnerving experience as we were all tired due to jet lag. Present day cricketers travel business class, but that was not the position during our time when we had to travel long distances by air on economy class. It was only after Sri Lanka’s World Cup victory in 1996 that we were able to fly business class”, de Silva recalled.
With expansion and state-of-the-art developments, BIA is now akin to the Singapore airport, where passenger clearance, baggage collection and overall convenience and comfort are top priorities, he stressed.
Referring to the BIA Christmas Shopping Festival, Rohan Manukulasooriya, Acting Head of Marketing, AASL, described the ongoing promotion as a cheerful shopping experience to passengers arriving or departing from the BIA and MRIA.
He said that this seasonal shopping fiesta has grown into an annual experience eagerly looked forward to by both passengers and concessionaires at the two airports. “It is an assurance that Sri Lanka is one of the best places for shopping”.
Any passenger who makes a purchase to value of US$ 10 or more at any of the outlets in the departure /transit area or arrival duty free complex will be eligible to participate in a raffle draw.
In addition, a purchase of US$ 50 or more will also entitle passengers to play a Mini Golf game and win instant prizes. This year, the grand prize of the draw is a brand new Chery J3 car sponsored by Ideal Chery Automobiles (Pvt) Limited, adding value and color to the event.
The Nations Trust Bank and Dialog have come on board as other sponsors. Apart from the grand prize, there are cash prizes of Rs. 500,000, Rs. 250,000, Rs 150,000 and Rs. 100,000, a Singer Laptop Computer, LG Double Door Refrigerator, Fully Automatic Washing Machine, 40″ Samsung LED TV and Ariston 5 Burner Cooker Hob.
The promotion will continue from December 1, 2014 until January 31, 2015.
Geeth Karunaratne, President of the Organizing Committee of the event, Nimesh Udeshi, President, Duty Free Distributors’ Association, Harsha Samaranayake, Head of Brands, Dialog and Jerome Perera representing NTB, also spoke at the launch.
Yohan Jayaratne, Executive Director, AASL, Derrick Karunaratne, CEO, MRIA and Senarath Hettiarachchi, Manager, BIA, were amongst the senior officials present.