Sri Lanka has granted the clearance to license foreign airlines to operate flights between internal airports to boost the domestic aviation sector, the government said.
Under existing bilateral agreements foreign airlines operating to Sri Lanka cannot carry traffic in between airports within the island, generally known as 6th freedom and beyond.
But the cabinet of ministers has given clearance for Sri Lankas civil aviation authority to issue one year operating licenses to foreign airlines that are interested in flying within Sri Lanka, the state information office said.
The airlines would be allowed to operate to Jaffna International Airport, Batticaloa, Colombo, Ratmalana and Mattala International Airport.
Sri Lanka is expecting Indian airlines to operate to Jaffna later this year using smaller regional aircraft, who may also find the liberalization useful. However domestic aviation is still in its infancy. The Mattala International Airport is also largely unused.
Unlike in South Asia, East Asia had liberalized air travel much earlier. Countries like Vietnam which started liberalizing later than Sri Lanka have gone ahead. Foreign airlines including Cebu Pacific, Bamboo and Jetstar Pacific fly with the country.
Malaysia-based AirAsia approached Sri Lankas government to set up an airline in Sri Lanka but there was no progress. Since then a joint venture has been set up in Vietnam.
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