National carrier Maldivian has commenced operation to Sri Lanka's Colombo International Airport (Ratamalana Airport).
Until now, flights from the Maldives operated to Sri Lanka's Bandaranaike International Airport only. While Colombo International Airport is closest to the Maldives, the route is shorter compared to the Bandaranaike International Airport route .
The first Maldivian flight landed at Ratamalana Airport on Sunday morning. A special ceremony was held at the airport to welcome the passengers who arrived on the flight. Officials from the Maldives and Sri Lankan government attended the ceremony.
Three weekly flights will operate between Velana International Airport and Ratamalana International Airport. The flights are scheduled for Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The flights will depart from the Maldives at 6:00 am, and land at Sri Lanka at 8:40 am local time. The flight will depart from Sri Lanka at 9:40 am and arrive in the Maldives at 11:20 am local time.
IAS has attempted to commence flights to Sri Lanka for over five years. While around 9,000 Maldivians reside in the area surrounding Ratmalana Airport, IAS said the commencement of operation to the airport would bring eases to the Maldivians who live in the area.
Ratmalana Airport was established in 1935 as Sri Lanka's first international airport. Regional international operation was suspended in 1968, and the airport is now used for domestic operations and to accommodate some private jets. A flying school is also run at the site.
The Sri Lankan government has authorized to use of the airport for regional international operations to South Asian countries. Its government recently took steps to remove aircraft parking and parking charges for one year to promote international flights at Ratmalana Airport and suspend the airport service tax levied on passengers for one year.