Daily eight hour closure of airport:
Passengers requested to arrive five hours ahead of departure time:
Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said yesterday passengers should turn up at the Bandaranaike International Airport at least five hours before their flights to minimise congestion, caused by the closure of the airport for eight hours daily, from January 6 to April 6, for repairing the airport’s only runway.
Minister de Silva addressing a media briefing at the BIA premises yesterday said that passengers should arrive at the airport five hours prior to departure at the airline check- in counters.
The closure, one hour prior to schedule departure time, will be strictly adhered to,” he said.
“During the closure, the runway will be overlaid to improve surface condition and friction levels of the runway. This would be the first time such an overlay project is to be carried out since the commissioning of the runway in 1986,” he said.
“Only passengers will be allowed in the terminal building during the three months and accompanying visitors will not be allowed to enter the terminal.
“Further, the departure public concourse will be closed for visitors daily from morning till afternoon, during this period,” the minister said.
“The airport authorities have taken all possible measures to minimise the impact of the closure on airport users. It has allocated a separate channel for flight crew for their convenience. Security of passengers and aircraft will not be compromised in anyway during this period, but efficiency will be improved overall. The number of immigration counters will be increased while action has been taken to improve the efficiency of the Sri Lanka Customs operations,” he added.
The closure period was decided in consultation with the airport users with special emphasis on weather trends and civil engineering needs.
“The daily closure times during the three months have been decided taking into consideration a least congestion in order to minimise any adverse impact on both airlines and airport users. Currently, there are around 175 aircraft movements per day and most of the commercial flights have been rescheduled their operations during this period,’ the minister said.
The minister said the estimated cost of the construction of the runaway is nearly Rs.7.2 billion. He further said that all international airlines have refused to fly to Mattala international airport during this period citing a lack of infrastructure facilities.
“For this to happen, We need to develop the Southern highway and the railway link through Mattala to ensure the faster and better access to Colombo while improving accommodation facilities. Government revenue is to be used to repay the loan installment of Rs.3.6 billion per year for the Mattala airport. Therefore, there should be a proper plan to resolve this problem,” Minister De Silva said.
“Only SriLankan Airlines has agreed to fly to Mattala on the promise that they will be given adequate facilities for the passengers during this period. Due to the closure of BIA, Sri Lanka Airlines will have to cancel 16 flight movements per day and the other airlines will have to cancel four,” the minister said.
“This runway should have been relaid in 2001 according to the international airline safety regulations. However, no government ,elected after 2001, initiated this project. Since I took over the Ministry, I treated this matter as an urgent priority and called for tenders following the correct procedure. The contract has been given to the Chinese company at a cost of US$ 41 million under the consultation of Dutch experts,” he said.
“A special traffic plan will be implemented by Police within and around the airport. Respective airlines will update their passengers on any revision to their flight schedules. Sri Lankan passengers who are departing for foreign employment are requested to obtain the registration from the head office of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign employment (SLBFE) or from island wide SLBFE branches,” the minister added.