By Charumini de Silva
A total of seven airlines have so far announced plans to operate scheduled flights once the airport reopens on 21 January, a top official said.
The international airlines are Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Turkish Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Kuwait Airlines and Oman Airlines.
However, the Civil Aviation Authority official said these airlines were yet to file their schedule of flights but were likely to do so by next week.
Industry sources said the given the COVID-19 pandemic the frequency of flights would be kept at a minimum and increase in tandem with demand for air travel to and from Sri Lanka.
On 5 January, the Government announced that all airports would be opened for commercial flights and international tourists from 21 January with due compliance to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
In addition, Ukrainian flag carrier Ukraine International Airlines and charter operator SkyUp Airlines will continue to bring in tourists, while India’s Indigo and Maldivian Airlines will also deploy services.
With a week more for the re-opening of the borders for international leisure visitors, Sri Lanka Tourism on Monday undertook a massive awareness session on new COVID-19 health and safety protocols for all industry stakeholders.
Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga last week said the country hoped to attract 1.5 million tourists this year with implementation of proper COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, as the Government was keen on resuming tourism, to improve the economy battered by the pandemic.
Last year tourist arrivals were estimated at 508,000 with most of them coming prior to the closure of the airport in mid-March when the country’s borders were closed to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, Sri Lanka attracted 1.9 million tourists down from a record 2.3 million in 2018.