COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will resume flights from the northern Jaffna peninsula to India next month, Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva has said, asserting that the move would support the country's tourism industry and help in easing the economic crisis.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority plans to attract 800,000 tourists during the rest of the year.
"The northern Jaffna peninsula's Palaly airport is to resume flights to India from next month," Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said on Saturday. However, he did not specify a date. "Resuming the flights would improve tourism and help the country in the current dollar crisis," de Silva said after inspecting the airport.
"The present runway can only accommodate 75-seater flights and therefore needs to be extended," he said. He hoped for Indian assistance for runway improvements. The airport was named the Jaffna international airport in October 2019. The first international flight to land there was from Chennai.
The 2019 redevelopment of the airport was funded by both Sri Lanka and India. Earlier, India's Alliance Air conducted three weekly flights from Chennai to Palaly. However, after a government change in Sri Lanka in November 2019, the flight operations were halted.
Sri Lanka is currently facing its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948. The economic crisis has prompted an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas and other fuel, toilet paper, and even matches, with Sri Lankans being forced to wait in lines lasting hours outside stores to buy fuel and cooking gas.