President raps Mihin over unilateral announcement of resumption of ops

President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed his displeasure with the management of Mihin Lanka for having announced its destinations and plans to launch its inaugural flight to Dubai next month.

An industry source said the President was unhappy that the management of Mihin Lanka had not held extensive consultations with the management of the national carrier, SriLankan Airlines.

"The President made it very clear that the two airlines were not to compete in anyway and that Mihin should fill the void in SriLankan’s schedule," a well placed source told The Island.

"Destinations and pricing had to be carried out after consulting SriLankan; the President was clear on this. He wanted the Chairman and CEO of SriLankan and the Chairman and CEO of Mihin Lanka to meet before the scheduled inaugural flight of the budget airline," the source revealed.

The President met with the management of both airlines and Ports and Aviation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa, Deputy Minister Sarath Gunarathna and Ministry officials.

Last Monday, Mihin Lanka’s Chairman Raja A. Edirisuriya told journalists that, the resurrected airline would have its inaugural flight on 15th December, when a four month old Boeing 737-800 takes off for Dubai.

The new management of Mihin Lanka inherited a Rs. 3.1 billion debt-burden partly for which Rs. 6 billion has been allocated by the government in the 2009 budget.

Edirisuriya told The Island that a four-month old Boeing 737-800 would be delivered on 10 December on a wet-lease which will cost the budget airline between US$ 900 thousand and US$ 1 million a month.

A French company specializing in leasing aircrafts, Trans Avia France FAS, is providing the aircraft.

The wet-lease will amount to US$ 2,800 per flying hour and last for three months before being converted to a dry lease.

Edirisuriya said the details of the dry-lease are yet being discussed.

Officials of Trans Avia France FAS are in Sri Lanka to discuss details of the lease and the flight schedules.

An advance of US$ 100,000 was already paid to the French leasing company.

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