The Government recently decided to reduce the ground handling charges at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), Katunayake for a period of ...six months commencing from 1 August.
Dissanayake, raising a question, under the Standing Order 27/2, noted that within the six-month period that the reduction of ground handling charges is enforced, the country would stand to lose around USD 4.3 million (Rs 776 million).
"The Government has also taken steps to provide fuel for aircraft and lubricants at concessionary rates and grant tax concessions. This decision has been taken assuming that the ground handling charges at the BIA was high and that by reducing the ground handling charges it would be able to attract more tourists. However, experts in the field have pointed out that this step is not a fruitful one and that it actually creates a huge loss to the country," he pointed out.
Dissanayake noted that the benefit of the ground handling charges reduction is for the airline companies, and not for the passenger. "The airline companies which enjoy these reduced charges have not signed any agreement to increase the seating capacity of their flights to the country or reduce the price of tickets. So, this step would not be able to attract tourists. The Government's argument is not logical and is baseless," he added.
He said, "Furthermore, the tourist arrivals have yet not returned to normalcy after the Easter Sunday terror attacks. So the total monthly loss of the SriLankan Airlines could be estimated around USD 800,000 amounting to a loss of $ 4.8 million during the six months. This is in addition to the loss incurred by providing fuel concessions."
Responding to Dissanayake, State Minister for Transportation and Civil Aviation, Ashoka Abeysinghe said that more than 1,000 flights scheduled to reach Sri Lanka were cancelled during the month of May 2019, following the Easter Sunday terror attacks.
"Cancellation of one flight amounts to a direct revenue loss of USD 11,000 and an indirect revenue loss of USD 49,500. You may know that Sri Lanka has the highest embarkation charges in Asia. Lowering these charges is a Cabinet of Ministers decision taken with the intention to attract tourists."
"However, State Minister for Finance Eran Wickremeratne will give a detailed answer to this question during the next sitting since the SriLankan Airlines comes under the purview of the Finance Ministry," Abeysinghe said.