Aviation in Sri Lanka

The Civil Aviation sector recorded an impressive growth in 2011. The Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) at Katunayake handled 6.1 million passengers including transit passengers during 2011, recording an increase of 17 per cent compared to 2010. The total number of passenger aircraft movements handled by the BIA increased to 43,454 indicating a growth of 27 per cent. Total air cargo handling increased only marginally during 2011. BIA’s passenger handling reached the designated capacity of 6 million passengers in 2011. The BIA modernisation programme is expected to enhance its passenger handling capacity significantly. SLA continued its fleet modernisation programme during 2011 and acquired 3 brand new A320 aircrafts and commenced its business class refurbishment programme. The demand for domestic air travel is expected to increase with improvement in tourism activities.

The financial performance of the aviation sector remained weak in 2011. The revenue of SLA increased by 16.3 per cent to Rs. 78.9 billion, while the operating expenditure increased by 32.2 per cent to Rs. 98 billion resulting in an operating loss of Rs. 19.1 billion. High fuel prices and lower yields due to increased competition contributed to the increase in operating expenditure of SLA.

The construction work of several aviation development projects was in progress. The construction work of Phase I of the Mattala International Airport is expected to be completed by end 2012. Several leading international airlines have expressed their interest to operate at the second international airport of the country. Under Phase II of the BIA expansion project, the passenger handling capacity will be doubled to 12 million passengers per annum. Upon completion, BIA will be equipped with elevated roadways and roads, a new pier with 8 gates, a remote apron and taxiways.

Sri Lanka has the potential to emerge as an aviation hub in the region. The second phase of the BIA modernisation project and the expected completion of the second international airport at Mattala in 2012 would reinvigorate the aviation industry to serve the growing number of tourists visiting the country. The growth in the air transportation is expected to create a demand for aircraft maintenance, repairs, re-building, bunkering and catering services which would provide an opportunity for development of an efficient aviation industry in the country. Sri Lanka has been striving to meet the international standards of the aviation industry and adopt recommended practices with a view to emerge as an aviation hub in the region.

Furthermore, Sri Lanka has taken steps to develop domestic airports at Ampara, Koggala, China-Bay, Jaffna and Ratmalana. These will then be developed as “City Airports” aimed at developing the market for charter flights and private jet operations.

Source: Central Bank Annual Report 2011 Statistics from the Civil Aviation Authority Website

Aircraft Movement from 2002 to 2010


Figure 1: Aircraft Movements – 2002 to 2010 [Source: Civil Aviation Authority]

Passenger Movement from 2002 to 2010



Figure 2: Passenger Movements – 2002 to 2010 [Source: Civil Aviation Authority]