Sri Lanka’s third International airport at Palali on the Jaffna Peninsula was formally declared open this morning by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Flight to and from India will operate from this airport, and the first flight from Chennai arrived to a ceremonial welcome this morning. The aircraft was from the Air India Alliance fleet and carried Airline officials from India.
The Jaffna International Airport project is costing a total of Rs 2,250 and out of that Rs 300 million is aid from India.
The existing military runway has been extended by 950 metres and the airport can now land Bombardier 100 72-passenger aircraft.
Daily international flights are expected to operate from Jaffna International from next month. Plans are afoot to operate flights to other cities in Southern India such as Hyderabad.
This is Jaffna’s second stint as an international airport.
First built as a Royal Air Force base during the Second World War, it was taken over by the Civil Aviation Department after the war. Sri Lanka’s first international flight operated from Ratmalana to Jaffna and on to Chennai in December 1947.
The airport was converted into a Sri Lanka Air Force base in 1976 after Tamil militancy grew and served as a major military installation right through the separatist war.
With hostilities ended the dream of restoring Palali to international status has now been realized.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunge, Northen Province Governor Suren Raghavan and the High Commissioner for India Taranjit Singh Sandhu were among the dignitaries at the opening ceremony.