Sri Lanka private sector pushes open skies policy with India

Colombo, Jan 24, (IANS) — A leading private sector organisation in Sri Lanka has urged an open skies policy between India and Sri Lanka to permit private Indian commercial airlines keen to operate flights here.

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) has called on the government to review its aviation policy to meet the demand of increasing traffic between the two neighbours, reports here said.

"We are aware that the private domestic airlines of India, namely Jet Airways and Sahara Airlines, are very keen to operate to Colombo but the aviation policy of India does not allow private carriers to operate beyond their domestic territories," the CCC has said in a letter to the aviation minister.

The CCC had pointed out that there was growing potential for expanding business and tourism ties if the two countries could relax the restrictions on airline traffic.

Present bilateral agreements cover only the island’s national airline, SriLankan Airlines and the Indian domestic carrier, Indian Airlines, both of which are limited to 4,050 airline seats a week.

"If the Indian authorities consider allowing Indian domestic private airlines to operate within the region, this will increase the capacity to fulfil the bilateral diversity that currently exists from India," the CCC said.

The business chamber has charged that Indian authorities had refused requests from Sri Lankan Airlines to operate flights to Hyderabad and Bangalore and increase frequencies to other destinations.

The tourist industry has repeatedly called for a more liberal aviation agreement between the two countries, particularly with the island making a big push in recent months to attract Indian and other regional visitors with special offers.

Pointing out the immediate benefits to the flagging hospitality trade, the CCC had also noted that an open skies policy would also encourage "trade, investments and technology transfers now expected to develop between India and Sri Lanka.

"It is imperative that regular and adequate high quality connections are available for air travel to and from India," the chamber said.
(Indo-Asian News Service)