Batticaloa International Airport is to be redeveloped as a fully fledged domestic airport following its previous attempt of upgrading it in 2018-2019 period with the aim of facilitating tourist arrivals in the country especially from India, Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister, Prasanna Ranatunga revealed.
A tripartite agreement will be signed by Airport and Aviation Services Pvt Ltd (AASPL), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Sri Lanka Air Force to prepare a suitable plan for this purpose and implement it.
This plan is being devised by CAA to improve basic facilities at the airport including the building of control towers and the Northern section of the runway and installing fire fighting and rescue systems etc.
A special programme will be implemented to identify commercial investment opportunities inside the airport focusing attention on other investment opportunities relating to the domestic aviation industry, he said.
Batticaloa Airport and its infrastructure facilities are now being developed with the assistance of tourist hotel owners and activists in the field of tourism, he added.
A special meeting was held recently at the Batticaloa International Airport (BTIA) under the patronage of the Minister to discuss the future development opportunities of the airport and how it could contribute to domestic travel and the tourism industry in Sri Lanka.
The BTIA, the Gateway to Eastern Sri Lanka, was reopened for civil operations in 2018 and is geo-strategically located 2.4km South East of the city of Batticaloa awakening the eastern coast of Sri Lanka connecting to all domestic Airports of the country.
In a much hyped-up event in March 2018 the previous government declared open the airport after the reconstruction of the runway, apron and terminal building at a cost of staggering Rs. 1.4 billion with Treasury funding.
It was also then gazetted as an international airport as it enhances business and trade prospects in the Jaffna peninsula.
At that time Alliance Air of India was to launch direct flights from northern Sri Lankan to Chennai and Tiruchi but the plan halted midway due to COVID-19 outbreak and several other logistics issues, officials said.
Along with the development in Palaly, the government proposes to upgrade the other two regional airports — Ratmalana, located South of Colombo and Batticaloa — in the island to international airports.
For northern Tamils, it was a historic development in their region, which was badly affected by the civil war that spanned three decades until 2009, official sources said.
In addition to linking them to the Indian cities they frequent, the opening of an international airport also enhances business and trade prospects in the Jaffna peninsula.
The Palaly airport, some 20 km north of Jaffna town, has now been renamed Jaffna International Airport. Similar plans are afoot in the east as well,
The previous government has put in about Rs. 3 billion to upgrade Palaly from a regional to an international airport, extending its runway up to 2.3 km, with a plan to further extend it by another kilometer in the next phase.