Indian Company to Manage AirPort

Indian Company to Manage AirPort

Sri Lanka has announced plans to hand over the management of its three key airports, including the bustling Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), to an Indian firm. This move aims to address the growing challenges of handling the surge in tourist arrivals, expected to reach 2.2 million in 2024.

Capacity Crunch at BIA: While BIA serves as the main gateway, its infrastructure struggles to keep pace with the tourist boom. Tourism Minister Harin Fernando acknowledged the need for improvements, stating, “The main airport needs capacity improvement to handle the… tourist load.”

Enter the Indian Partner: Fernando confirmed that an Indian firm, yet unnamed, will manage all three airports: BIA, Ratmalana, and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA). This decision likely taps into Indian expertise in airport management while fostering closer economic ties between the two nations.

Geopolitical Considerations: Analysts see the move as a strategic counterbalance to China’s significant presence in Sri Lanka, particularly in the southern Hambantota region where it operates a port and plans an oil refinery. Bringing in India to manage MRIA, often dubbed the “World’s Emptiest Airport,” could serve as a strategic check.

Immigration Bottleneck: Fernando also highlighted the issue of immigration bottlenecks at BIA, causing inconvenience for tourists. He proposed diverting charter flights to Ratmalana for Indian tourists and Mattala for others, easing congestion at BIA. However, limitations like airspace restrictions around the parliament pose logistical challenges.

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