The initial congestion caused as a result of the partial closure of the Katunayake International Airport beginning on 6 January has now been completely eased, according to the Minister of Tourism Development.
The airport is closed from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm daily for a period of three months to carry out resurfacing on the main runway.
Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga, who has been closely monitoring the situation, visited Katunayake Airport on 8 January and followed it up with a meeting with airline representatives and Airport and Aviation Services Ltd. (AASL) officials at his office last morning.
It was the general consensus of airline representatives that congestion issues had been completely overcome and they in fact commended the authorities for their quick action to ease passenger traffic. “Following reports of congestion on the first day of the partial closure, airport authorities swiftly moved into action to minimise inconvenience to passengers by introducing a series of measures,” noted Minister Amaratunga.
Minister Amaratunga, who visited the airport on an inspection tour, observed firsthand the measures in place to ensure the smooth flow of passenger traffic. During a meeting at the airport, which was attended by the Controller of Emigration and Immigration, AASL senior management, representatives of the runway repair contractor, security heads and other top officials, the Minister inquired about operational issues and the measures that had been introduced.
The Minister was informed that the number of counters for check-ins, immigration and also customs had been increased corresponding with the increase in traffic. “Having spoken to all the officials concerned and some of the passengers themselves, I found that the passenger flow was quite smooth and fast getting back to normal. It must be remembered that with two million tourist arrivals the airport is operating at 150% capacity, so until the new terminal is ready it’s going to be a very busy airport,” noted Minister Amaratunga.
Some of the other measures that have been introduced are queue management, entertainment for waiting passengers, additional seating arrangements, passenger facilitation services in the emigration area and free Wi-Fi for passengers.
“During the meeting at the airport we discussed the feasibility of introducing a separate business class check-in area to ease main terminal passenger traffic. We are also exploring the possibility of enabling passenger check-in at airline offices in Colombo. Logistics and emigration issues need to be worked out in this regard,” explained Minister Amaratunga.
Senior management of all airlines operating in the country expressed their satisfaction with the measures in place during the meeting with the Tourism Minister in Colombo this morning.
“The passenger flow is better than before the closure. The relevant authorities must be commended for their proactiveness,” said Chandana De Silva, who was representing a leading airline.