Sri Lanka’s Third International Airport Boosts Tourism Opportunities

by | Feb 21, 2020

After being declared open on the 17th of October 2019, the Jaffna International Airport (JIA), Sri Lanka’s third and newest International Airport, commenced international commercial flight operations from 11th November 2019.

Inaugural operations were initiated with an Indian subsidiary as it scheduled flights from Jaffna International Airport to Chennai, three times a week. Sri Lanka is also currently in talks with multiple airlines to fly to Jaffna. According to the Chairman of Airport and Aviation Services, now that Stage 01 of the airport is complete, JIA can accommodate aircrafts with up-to an 80 seat capacity. After Stage 02 is completed, larger aircrafts such as those of Sri Lankan airlines can also be accommodated.

Sri Lankan aviation history achieved a milestone with the operation of this airport. It was the first time a local aviation operator became a privately owned local airline, licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka to operate internationally. This airline scheduled flights from Jaffna to Chennai and Tiruchirappalli International Airports (in South India).

Sri Lanka is proud of this momentous occasion as after decades of being left idle, this airport will greatly contribute to the economy by boosting luxury tours in Sri Lanka as well as increasing investment opportunities in the hospitality sector.

Throughout the year, there are many pilgrimage tourists going from Sri Lanka to India. Also, India generates the highest number of tourists for Sri Lanka – showing the number of travelers between the two countries. By introducing flights from Jaffna to South India, the traveling costs will reduce by almost 50%, not forgetting the valuable travel time saved by landing directly in Jaffna as opposed to the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA).

The International Civil Aviation Organization ranks Sri Lanka as 1st for aviation safety in all of South Asia and 19th on a global scale. This ranking comes in respect of implementing international
standards for aviation safety. Most employees at JIA are transferred from BIA in lieu of maintaining the same standards, and all other employees are highly trained in safety and security.

How JIA came into being?

Located approximately 16kms north of Jaffna, JIA, also known as Palaly Airport, was previously used as a domestic airport and a base for the Sri Lankan Air Force. The upgrading of this facility to international airport standards is underway in a carefully strategized, phased approach:

Stage 01 (Complete): refurbishing runway, upgrading terminal, infrastructure upgrades, construction of an air traffic control tower.

Stage 02 (2020-2022): extending the runway to accommodate larger aircrafts, expansion of the terminal.

Stage 03 (2022 onwards): ensuring that JIA can operate as a full-fledged international airport, making way for any international flight and passengers.

Jaffna as a strategic location?

In order to reap social and economic benefits in a sustainable manner, it is important to construct new airports at strategic locations and to develop existing airports. The objective of converting Palaly
to JIA was based on the need to develop regional air connectivity. Comprehensive studies were conducted on the air potential of this area before the project was launched. Results showed an expected increase in passenger traffic as well as growth in tourism opportunities.

For example, during the period of 2013-2018, there is a rapid growth in total passenger movement from BIA to Indian airports such as Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, and Trivandrum. In fact, just from 2017 to 2018, growth has been 28%. At the same time, from 2013-2018, the overall average growth rate of Sri Lankans traveling to destinations in India has been at 12% per year. The operations of Jaffna International Airport will immediately play a role in easing this congestion by giving visitors on a round tour of Sri Lanka an alternative landing option rather than at the main
international airport.

Tourism attractions close to JIA

Jaffna itself has a long history, including many stories of the 30-year civil war in Sri Lanka. Simply scrolling through the streets and villages will show you what war-torn buildings and fields look like. In addition to that, Jaffna has a rich culture and heritage, offering many temple visits such as Nallur and Nagadeepa. Also included in your tour would be the Jaffna Fort, local markets, neighboring islands such as Delft Island and Mannar, neighboring cities such as Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi, and of course the jaw-dropping east coast of Sri Lanka is just a few hours away from Jaffna.