Search

 

Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Colombo Airport Resumes Night Operations

VZCZCXRO6561
OO RUEHBI RUEHLMC
DE RUEHLM #0962/01 1901045
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 091045Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6420
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1180
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0272
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 7253
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 5360
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 3232
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 5698
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 3895
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 3966
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 3052
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 2215
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 7846
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 5501
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0381
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000962

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/INS AND EEB/TRA/OTP
MCC FOR D TETER, D NASSIRY AND E BURKE
BANGKOK AND SINGAPORE FOR TSA AND FAA

E.O 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON EINV ETRD PTER CE

SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: COLOMBO AIRPORT RESUMES NIGHT OPERATIONS

REF: COLOMBO 660

1. SUMMARY: Sri Lanka's Bandaranaike International Airport resumed
night operations on July 1 after the airport suspended night flights
in early May following a series of air attacks near the airport by
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. However, only one airline
operating through Colombo has announced plans to resume night
operations. With the government unable so far to neutralize the
Tigers' air attack capability, most airlines are likely to hold off
on resuming night flights. End summary.

2. Sri Lanka's only international airport, Bandaranaike
International Airport (BIA), resumed 24- hour operations on July 1,
lifting the restriction on flights operating between 2200 and 0400
hours that had been in place since May 10. The closure occurred
following a series of air attacks by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) (reftel). Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena
announced the resumption of night operations and said the decision
followed lengthy discussions between defense and aviation officials.
The Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority, Parakrama
Dissanayake, also confirmed to Econoff that the decision to open the
airport was based on high level government discussions as well as
"safety information" presented to the government.

AIRLINES MOSTLY PREFER TO KEEP DAYTIME FLIGHTS
--------------------------------------------- -

3. Following the BIA decision to resume 24-hour operations, only
one airline, Dubai-based Emirates, has announced that it will resume
night flights into and out of Colombo. Effective July 15, Emirates
plans to return to the flight schedule it operated prior to the May
closure.

4. Sri Lankan Airlines, the national carrier managed and 43%-owned
by Emirates Airlines, does not yet plan to join Emirates in resuming
night operations. A Sri Lankan Airlines public relations official
told Econoff that the airline was not yet comfortable to resume
night operations and is seeking assurances from the government and
insurance companies that it was safe to do so. The Sri Lankan
Airlines official, however, also told Econoff that the airline hopes
to begin scheduling night flights in August. (Note: Neither
Emirates nor Sri Lankan officials could explain why the two
airlines, though both managed by Emirates, made different decisions
on the resumption of night flights.) Sri Lankan has suffered the
greatest loss from the airport's night time closure. This is not
only due to the decline in the number of its passengers, but also a
drop in its Airport Handling and Catering operations for foreign
airlines. The security situation also disrupted Sri Lankan
Airlines' plans to expand its flight operations to new
destinations.

5. Aside from Emirates, the only other request for evening
operations thus far has come from India-based Jet Air, but solely
for the purpose of using the BIA as an alternate airfield during
night time hours. (The Civil Aviation Authority plans to approve
this request.) Meanwhile, all other airlines including Singapore
Airlines, Qatar Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Malaysian
Airlines have yet to decide whether to resume their night flights.
Despite the lack of immediate enthusiasm to re-start evening
flights, the airport reopening has had some positive impact: several
airlines that had entirely ceased flying to Sri Lanka now plan to
resume service. India-based Air Sahara will resume operations to
Colombo from July 22. Cathay Pacific is expected to resume flights
in September.

NO PLANS TO ACQUIRE A NEW RADAR SYSTEM

COLOMBO 00000962 002 OF 002


--------------------------------------
6. According to a senior Sri Lankan Airlines official, the Civil
Aviation Authority has not made any security guarantees to the
airlines. He believed this was the primary reason that most
airlines were reluctant to resume night operations. The decision to
lift the evening curfew was based on defense and aviation officials'
assessments that the airport security authorities are capable of
responding to emergency situations. Since March, the BIA has
augmented its security personnel with officers from the Sri Lanka
Air Force (SLAF) and the Airport and Aviation Services Ltd (AASL),
the state-owned entity that manages BIA operations. One senior AASL
officer told Embassy that the BIA has not acquired any new radar
capability and will continue to use its existing civilian radar
system. He said the current airport radar system is adequate for
civil aviation purposes. He added that the air space surveillance
is the responsibility of the SLAF, which uses a military radar
system to protect both BIA and the adjacent Katunayake Air Force
Base. According to the AASL senior officer, the air force radar
system, which was not operating at the time of the March air attack,
is now operational.

NO INCREASE IN INSURANCE PREMIUMS
---------------------------------

7. According to Civil Aviation Authority officials, a group of
London-based insurance underwriters visited the BIA and assessed
that the airport's current security was satisfactory and thus did
not warrant an increase in premiums. The government, which has not
received any reports from the London-based insurance companies which
ordered the review, views the absence of any recommendations as a
positive sign.

8. COMMENT: Director General Dissanayake told us that it would take
some time for airlines to resume night operations as bookings have
been made under the present flight schedule and regional routes will
need to be reconfigured. With no indication that the government has
neutralized the LTTE air bombing capacity, it is not surprising that
most airlines are not yet ready to resume night operations. The
Tourist Board is eager to see a resumption of normal 24-hour flight
operations as the main tourism season begins in early fall.
Pressure from the government, including the President and the
Tourist Board, may be needed to convince more airlines to resume
night flights.
MOORE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

UN SDG: UN Appoints Twenty Eminent Thinkers To Shed New Light On The World’s Greatest Challenges

New York, 21 January 2021 – Twenty prominent personalities, globally renowned for their intellectual leadership in economic and social fields, will form the second United Nations High-level Advisory Board (HLAB) on Economic and Social Affairs, the ... More>>

UN: As COVID Deaths Pass Two Million Worldwide, Guterres Warns Against Self-Defeating ‘Vaccinationalism'

With more than two million lives now lost worldwide to COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General appealed on Friday for countries to work together and help each other to end the pandemic and save lives. In a video statement , Secretary-General António Guterres ... More>>

UN: Violent Attempt At US Capitol To ‘overturn’ Election, Shocking And Incendiary

A group of independent UN rights experts released ... More>>

UN: Guterres To Seek Second Five-year Term
António Guterres will be seeking a second five-year term as UN Secretary-General, which would begin in January 2022.... More>>