Sri Lanka says scheduled int'l flights resume at southern airport

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COLOMBO, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- Scheduled international flights have resumed at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA), located in southern Sri Lanka, from this week with the arrival of the maiden flight of Air Astana, the flag carrier of Kazakhstan, local media reported on Monday.

The flight landed at the MRIA, carrying 164 tourists, marking their direct flights to Sri Lanka, while the flights will be operated from Kazakhstan's Almart Airport to MRIA once a week till April.

According to health guidelines, the group of tourists will stay at hotels in Ahungalla, Bentota and Kalutara in the south, and will visit several approved tourist destinations under the bio-bubble concept.

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said the MRIA was started as the second international airport in the country and steps have been taken to make it an active airport once again.

The minister also highlighted that nearly 2,000 tourists had arrived in the country after the government reopened borders for international travelers on Jan. 21 and that the travel patterns are closely monitored.

Aviation State Minister D.V. Chanaka said in addition to launching international flights, the MRIA would also be developed as a cargo hub.

"We already have plans to increase cargo operations and promote Mattala as a cargo hub," he said.

The MRIA was opened in March 2013 and since airports were closed in March 2020, the airport was used to land special charter flights, mostly bringing in Sri Lankans repatriated from overseas. Enditem

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