By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
The maiden international flight ‘Maldivian’ that landed at Colombo International Airport – Ratmalana (CIAR) last Sunday (27), was grounded within 96 hours as there were no passengers from the Maldives nor from Ratmalana to the Maldives, and the Government incurred a loss of around Rs 6 million spent on the exorbitant launching ceremony that day, Ceylon Today learns.
The national carrier Maldivian, the first to land as the first international regional flight operations between its main hub, Velana Airport, was called off within 96 hours, reliable sources informed this newspapers.
It is believed that some of the top officials have had suggested this route without even assessing whether this route is marketable or not.
A grand ceremony was held on the inaugural flight from Male to Colombo welcomed by a celebratory water cannon salute upon arrival at CIAR. The passengers were warmly welcomed and presented with gift packs from the Sri Lanka Tea Board followed by a traditional Kandyan dance performance.
Maldivian operates scheduled flights on a Dash-8 aircraft with 50 seats between
Sri Lanka and the Maldives three times a week and the frequency will be increased up to five flights from May 2022 onwards, the Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (AASL) announced earlier.
Omar Abdul Razzak – Ambassador to the Republic of Maldives, A.M.J Sadiq – Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Maldives, Namal Rajapaksa – Minister of Youth & Sports and State Minister of Digital Technology and Entrepreneur Development, D. V. Chanaka – State Minister of Aviation and Development of Export Zones together with Major General (Rtd.) G.A. Chandrasiri, Chairman of Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited attended the gala opening.
Director AASL for Domestic and Regional Airports CIAR/JIA /BTIA & CATD, Deirdre de Livera and Board of Directors of AASL and senior officials of CAASL, AASL were the brains behind this venture it was alleged, that has caused the Government a thumping loss of Rs 6 million at a time when the country is suffering from an acute financial crisis.
Meanwhile, the Ratmalana Airport also had launched its own Ground Handling Services arm on 25 March.
The ground handling service is run by an international private/corporate jet with incoming passengers, the AASL said.
The ground handling staff successfully handled ground operations according to international standards meeting all regulatory requirements and provided the required services, officials said.
The launch of the ground handling service arm will attract more private/ corporate jet operations to CIAR, which will bring in more High Net-worth individuals with a higher spending capacity thereby supporting the tourism industry and earn much needed foreign currency.
Further, the AASL said it is set to launch an aggressive marketing campaign to attract more private and corporate jet operations to CIAR.
However, the AASL could not hold on to their first inaugural flight Maldivian due to lack of marketing strategy, sources said.