Thu, May 10, 2007
Passengers Stranded; Confusion Reigns
The decision of the Bandaranaike International Airport to close
at night left thousands of passengers stranded amid confusion over
rescheduled flights at Sri Lanka's only international airport
BIA will now be open only from 4:00 am local time (2230 GMT) to
10:00 pm (1730 GMT) as part of security measures following four
recent daring nighttime raids by Tamil Tiger aircraft, according to
Several of the international airlines have since restricted
operations to daylight hours, but haven't finalized their new
schedules. This left thousands of passengers scrambling for seats
to fly in and out of the former Colombo Airport.
Airlines have long regarded BIA as a regional hub as well as a
key point for travel between Europe and the Far East.
"With the revised timetable, Sri Lanka is now an extension of
Maldives. Before that, Male (the capital of the Maldives) was an
extension to flights out of Colombo," said Ranjith Silva, director
of Superlink Travels.
About 60 to 70 percent of passenger and cargo traffic out of Sri
Lanka is controlled by SriLankan Airlines which is partly owned but
fully managed by Dubai's Emirates Airlines. The national carrier
ceased its nighttime operations a week prior to the airport's
Other carriers that have switched to daytime-only flights
include Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways. Hong Kong's Cathay
Pacific suspended all flights into BIA following the Tiger air raid on April 29
and has yet to resume those services. The military followed suit
this week and restricted its domestic flights.
The rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland in the
north and east of the island since 1972. They are believed to be
operating five Czech-built Zlin-143 light aircraft they smuggled
onto the island in pieces.
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