Marking a milestone in Sri Lanka’s airport and aviation industry, a one-off Emirates A380 commercial flight landed yesterday at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake, a development which will bolster the image of the airport and its services.
Arranged to celebrate BIA’s recently resurfaced and upgraded runway, the special A380 flight operated as EK654 from Dubai and replaced the B777 usually deployed by Emirates on flights to Sri Lanka. It was the first time over 500 passengers came to Sri Lanka on a single flight. Welcoming the guests, Emirates Senior Vice President Commercial - West Asia and Indian Ocean, Ahmed Khoory, said the first commercial service to Sri Lanka of an airbus 380 aircraft signified its strong relationship and commitment to the destination.
Given the Government’s focus on developing tourism, he said the arrival of the A380, the world’s largest commercial aircraft, marked an important development for the local aviation industry. “It is a matter of pride for Sri Lanka that the airport has joined the ranks of leading international airports in the A380 league.”
Khoory also expressed confidence in commencing an A380 service as and when demand grows. In its nine years of service, Emirates remains the most talked-about passenger aircraft in the world today.
It was pointed out that Emirates was the world’s largest A380 operator with 95 aircrafts already in its fleet, while 47 more have been ordered. It currently operates A480s in 46 destinations across the world covering almost a third of its global network.
Transport and Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said the arrival of the A380 marked a great occasion for Sri Lanka as it entered a new era of air connectivity.
“The arrival of the world’s largest commercial aircraft lifts the confidence of the airport status of BIA.”
He said it also highlighted the capacity of handling services including Customs, immigration and security services at the airport.
The Minister said that there was a lot of criticism when BIA’s runway was refurbished and doubts about whether it could handle A380s.
The iconic aircraft was on the ground for more than six hours to enable airport executives, VIPs, trade partners and the media to enjoy guided tours of its cabins and unique amenities like its first-class suites, shower spas and onboard lounge.