Sri Lanka is still committed to controls on actions to liberalize air transportation in the country even as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) international conference in Colombo looks to augment the application of open skies throughout its member countries.
Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva said that despite the cutback of state’s control on air transport, often called as liberalization or de-regulation, there is a need to protect the national carrier – SriLankan Airlines.
There is a risk of anti-competitive behavior that drives governments to step-in to aid the national carrier, and help it operate successfully. He added this was the restriction that Sri Lanka faced in liberalizing air transport.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Chairman Udaya Nanayakkara insisted that Sri Lanka has to liberalize the air services in order to entice more carriers to operate to the country, thereby helping to generate more tourist traffic.
He cited Dubai’s example of accepting an open skies policy before establishing their own national carrier and later agreeing to bilateral agreements. He also spoke of how their product portfolio has been developed, paving for the desert nation’s transformation to a tourism destination.
During the discussion stage of the conference, Civil Aviation Authority Director General H.M.C. Nimalsiri stressed that while they were amenable to the idea of liberalizing the air services of Sri Lanka, they were also bound to come to the national carrier’s aid to increase its viability.
He noted that at a time when Sri Lanka encountered security issues, most foreign airlines were hasty to pack up and leave and insisted that it was the national carrier that continued its operations.
Sri Lanka would be going for third and fourth freedoms of open skies but would be hesitant to take up on the fifth freedom of the air as it could impact the existing markets and dilutes all carriers operating on that market, said Nimalsiri.