Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Flights soon from Jaffna's Palali airport to 4 Indian cities but not Chennai; Report

The Palali regional airport in North which is expected to commence airline services to Indian regional cities in mid October as construction are to be completed with the Indian grant will not have Chennai as one of the destinations, a news report from Hindustan Times said.

Since the end of its three-decade long civil war in 2009 and with the help of India, Sri Lanka has been upgrading the Jaffna peninsula’s Kankesanthurai harbour and the adjacent air field Palali, which played a crucial role for the Sri Lankan air force to air-drop relief supplies during the brutal conflict, when supply lines to Jaffna were often cut off by the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Come October, Palali will undergo a radical transformation and become Sri Lanka’s third international airport with connections to four Indian cities. However, and much to the chagrin of Tamils in both India and Sri Lanka, Chennai is not one of them.

Sri Lankan civil aviation minister Arjuna Ranatunga last week inaugurated a INR 2.5 billion expansion program of Palali’s facilities for which India provided Rs 300 million. Speaking on the occasion, the minister expressed the hope that opening up Palali to Indian visitors will attract investment, create employment and boost tourism in the Jaffna peninsula. He also announced that smaller commercial planes will operate flights to Bengaluru, Kochi, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

But what about historically and culturally linked Chennai? As of now and given the lack of land and sea connections, members of Sri Lanka’s largest minority community desirous of visiting Tamil Nadu have to take a circuitous, six-hour road trip to Colombo’s Bandaranaike international airport to fly there. Whether Chennai will be added when an extended runway in Palali is able to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft, remains an open question.
28/08/19 Times Online
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