United Arab Emirates (UAE) low-cost carrier Air Arabia is to increase links from the Gulf state to Sri Lanka with the introduction of flights between its Sharjah International Airport base and the new Mattala Hambantota International Airport. The budget airline will introduce a twice weekly link when the new airport opens on March 18, 2013, increasing to a four times weekly schedule from May 19, 2013.
Also known as Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, the new facility hosts a 12,000 square metre passenger terminal, ten gates and a 3,500 metre runway, and is designed to handle up to 1 million passengers and 6250 aircraft operations per year, allowing it to help ease some of the capacity pressures facing Colombo’s congested Bandaranaike International Airport.
“Our new service to Mattala is in direct response to passenger demand and will contribute to the trade and tourism ties between UAE and Sri Lanka.”Adel Ali
Group Chief Executive Officer, Air Arabia
Sri Lanka’s national carrier SriLankan Airlines has confirmed in the past week it will operate flights to Bangkok, Beijing, Male, Riyadh and Shanghai from Hambantota International but initially all within an itinerary that begins or ends in Colombo. Local operator Mihin Lanka is also expected to link the facility to Colombo and destinations in India, but Air Arabia is the first foreign carrier to announce plans to serve the new airport.
The budget carrier made its debut in Sri Lanka in May 2004 on a four times weekly schedule, growing to a daily operation from April 2005. It now offers nine weekly flights with a daily schedule to the capital city, including two rotations on Tuesdays and Fridays and says the launch of services to Mattala “will complement” its current operations rather than replace existing capacity into Sri Lanka.
“This announcement is a continuation of Air Arabia’s longstanding commitment to expand our presence in the Indian Subcontinent. Just a few months after our inception in 2003, we launched a direct service to Colombo, which was our first destination in the Subcontinent, and we are delighted to now add a second route to the country,” said Adel Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer, Air Arabia. “Our new service to Mattala is in direct response to passenger demand and will contribute to the trade and tourism ties between UAE and Sri Lanka.”