The only remaining carrier to fly to Sri Lanka’s struggling second airport, Flydubai announced it has suspended flights to the airport, leaving it with a stunning predicament: no passengers.
Built at a cost of over $200 million, nearly all borrowed from banks in China, Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) was built 250 kilometres away from the capital in Colombo. Spread over 12,000 square meters with 12 check-in counters and two gates, it is capable of hosting more than a million passengers each year.
However, in 2017 only hosted some 35,000 passengers last year, all on Flydubai Flights, earning it the monicker “the world’s emptiest airport”.
A spokesperson for the airline told Arabian Business today, “Flights to Mattala have not operated from June 8 due to commercial reasons,” and that passengers who had purchased were being rebooked on flights to Colombo.
Traffic in 2017 was up sharply from roughly 5,000 in 2016, however, flights during the non-peak season of travel often flew all but empty, causing the carrier to suspend flights altogether.
Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority chairman Ananda Wimalasena told local daily, Daily Mirror, that the airline had made the request because “they said their operations at MRIA are uneconomical.”