COLOMBO: Aeroflot has suspended its flights to Sri Lanka after the island nation's aviation authority prevented a flight of Russia's flag carrier to depart the Colombo airport on Thursday after a court order.
A statement from the Airport and Aviation Services said the flight, scheduled to depart from the Colombo airport to Moscow on June 2 with 191 passengers and 13 crew members, was not allowed to depart due to an enjoining order issued by the Commercial High Court of Colombo on June 2.
The owner of the airport Celestial Aviation of Ireland had filed an action against Aeroflot pending arbitration on the lease of the Airbus A330 aircraft in London.
"It was also noted during the hearing that the dispute between the Aeroflot and Celestial Aviation was purely a commercial nature which should be dealt between the said two parties and no involvement of the State was emphasised," the statement said.
Reports from Moscow suggested that the angry Russian government had summoned the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Moscow for an explanation.
The company owning the aircraft had pleaded in the court that Aeroflot was told not to fly the plane after the lease agreement came to be terminated in March. However, Aeroflot continued to fly the aircraft between Moscow and Colombo.
Meanwhile, Russia's official Tass news agency reported that Aeroflot has suspended its flights to Sri Lanka after authorities here did not allow its SU-289 flight to depart the Colombo airport.
"Aeroflot is suspending commercial flights to Colombo (Sri Lanka) for the immediate period due to an unreliable situation in terms of the airline's unobstructed flights to Sri Lanka. The sales of tickets for flights to Colombo have been temporarily shut down," the airline said in a statement on Friday.
Aeroflot passengers located in Colombo with return tickets for June 2, 4 and 5 will be brought to Russia from Sri Lanka on June 4 and 5.
Repatriation planes will fly to Colombo without passengers, according to the statement.
The company also vowed that those passengers with tickets to Moscow for later dates would also be brought home as scheduled.
Colombo's Commercial High Court has banned the Airbus A330 jet from leaving Sri Lanka until June 16.
A court hearing to lift the seizure of the aircraft is scheduled for June 8, the Tass report said.