After a devastating 30 year civil war that ended in 2009, Sri Lanka is open to the world now. The country has an immense potential for growth. Rich natural resources, high literacy rate, and growing tourism sector all contribute to year after year growth of the Sri Lankan economy.
Sri Lanka is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and the government has enacted modern investment laws that encourage and facilitate foreign direct investment into Sri Lanka.
Based on this, we are witnessing increasing number of business aviation operations into Sri Lanka. While the government has big plans for the aviation sector in Sri Lanka, the current infrastructure and regulations make the business aviation operations to Sri Lanka more difficult than what the business aviation operators and travelers require and expect. We are going to cover the ground and flight support services aspects of operating a business flight to Sri Lanka.
There are two main international airports in Sri Lanka: Bandaranaike International Airport (VCBI/CMB) and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (VCRI/HRI).
Colombo Airport or Ratmalana Airport (VCCC/RML) is a military airport that is not open for commercial operation, but authorization for business executive jets might be granted to this airport on a case by case basis. VCCC is the nearest to the city of Colombo, the commercial capital of the country.
While VCBI and VCRI operate 24 hours, VCCC operates only during the day time.
VCBI has been the main international airport of Sri Lanka for many years. VCBI airport is 35 kilometers away from Colombo City. This distance used to take around one hour’s drive before the recent opening of the highway connecting Colombo to the airport directly. VCRI is 259 kilometers to Colombo via the Southern Express highway.
VCBI is the hub of the Sri Lanka National Carrier, SriLankan Airlines, and Mihin Lanka, the low cost carrier of Sri Lanka. A new terminal is planned for VCBI. The new terminal will have a capacity for 9 million annual commercial passengers. Construction of the new terminal is expected to start soon.
VCBI is a slot coordinated airport, and a slot from Colombo Slot Coordinator is required. Sri Lankan airports are frequently used for technical landings due to Sri Lanka’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean. Parking is generally available, especially in VCRI airport.
A landing permit is required for operations to Sri Lanka for all types of flights, whether commercial, charter, private, air ambulance medical evacuation, and also for technical stop landings. The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) is the authority responsible for issuing the permits.
According to the Sri Lankan Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP), the official lead time and the minimum notice required to process the permits applications is long, and longer than normal. The lead time is 30 days for non-scheduled passenger commercial operation, 7 days for non-scheduled cargo commercial operation, 7 days for private flights, 3 days for technical landings, but can be issued in a few hours for air ambulance and relief flights. Overflight permit requests must be submitted 3 days in advance as well. However, in reality, experienced flight support providers who are experienced in the requirements and formalities may obtain the permits from CAASL with much less lead time.
Landing permits are valid for 2 days from the date of the intended operations. If the actual operations was delayed beyond two days, then a re-clearance should be obtained from CAASL. Even for delayed operations that fall within the period of 2 days of planned operations, CAASL must be notified of the new planned operation date.
Permit applications must come in a specific format required by Sri Lankan CAA, as they want to ensure that specific information is provided so they can assess the permissibility of the flight operation and the landing permit request. A copy of the request must be forwarded to Colombo Area Control Center.
Sri Lankan Airlines is the only ground handling services provider in Sri Lanka. They are the ground handler for both commercial operations as well as general and business aviation operations.
There is no dedicated general aviation terminal in the Sri Lankan airports. There is a VIP terminal, but it is dedicated for the use of official delegation visits. This VIP terminal can be arranged for business aviation, but requires prior approval from the responsible authorities, particularly the Ministry of Defense in Sri Lanka.
Supervisory ground support providers are available in Sri Lanka to coordinate all the ground services to be provided to the flight, and make sure the standard of service meets business aviation travelers’ expectations.
However, in VCBI, an airport concierge service called Silk Route is available for business passengers willing to pay for it. Silk Route is a meet and assist arrival and departure service that allows passengers to fast track the clearance of the customs and immigration processes and to use the executive lounges of the airport.
Ground handling charges can be settled in United States Dollars to Sri Lankan Airlines, while the landing fees and parking charges are paid to the Airport and Aviation Services company. Licensed and well-established flight and ground support service providers can cover the payment and ensure all the services are provided on credit basis.
Ceypetco Aviation, a subsidiary of Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, is the only aviation fuel provider in Sri Lanka. Ceypetco Aviation provides fuel in all 3 main airports of Sri Lanka. No fuel shortage has been recently experienced. AVGAS 100LL is also available in Sri Lanka. Aviation fuel is provided around the clock in VCBI and VCRI.
Fuel supply in Sri Lanka is linked to the landing permit, as fuel supply cannot be done for non-scheduled flights before receiving SLCAA approval.
Credit cards are not accepted for the settlement of fuel invoices, but major aviation fuel cards can be used, such as Air BP card, UV Air card, and AVCARD, in addition to fuel releases from reliable international fuel resellers. Refueling in both VCBI and VCCC takes place through tanker trucks and fuel hydrant facilities.
Singaporeans and Maldivians don’t need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. However, as Sri Lanka’s economy heavily relies on tourism, passengers from almost all nationalities can obtain a visa for 30 days upon arrival. The visa fee is $25 per passenger. To have the peace of mind of having the visa approved before you take the flight towards Sri Lanka, visa applications can also be submitted online through the Electronic Travel Authorization system (ETA): www.eta.gov.lk
Flight and cabin crew can clear immigration in Sri Lanka through the General Declaration, except if they are arriving on a commercial airline. At that time, then they must obtain a visa upon arrival, and then they can depart as flying crew on a business jet.
SriLankan Catering is the inflight catering provider in the airports of Sri Lanka. They provide the catering only in VCBI and VCRI. Catering can be provided by five star hotels as well.
When flying to VCBI, Gateway Hotel and Amagi Lagoon are two good hotels that are only five to ten minutes driving from the airport.
Colombo City has many five stars hotels, such as: Kingsbury, Galadari, Hilton, Cinnamon Lake, Cinnamon Grand, Taj Samudra, Galle Face Hotel, and Mount Lavinia Hotel.
While the security situation in the country has significantly improved recently, it’s still recommended to beware when travelling there. Prearranged transportation is recommended over taking the public taxis, especially when visiting the beautiful rural areas in the country.
Of course, the private limousine will not be allowed to access the airside to take the passenger from the aircraft, unless the flight is VIP.
The airports are under heavy governmental security provided by Airport and Aviation Services Limited (AASL).
Sri Lanka is an amazing country to visit for holiday. It has vast green mountains, beautiful sandy beaches and fresh fruits and vegetables. The business opportunities in the country are wide and various, with 20 million people living in the country, more than 2 million tourists visiting a year, and low cost of living. With the assistance of your ground support provider, your business flight to to Sri Lanka will be a successful special mission you will look forward to repeat.
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