Travel Delays

COLOMBO, May 9, 2007 (AFP) – Thousands of passengers face travel delays and disruptions starting Thursday, when Sri Lanka’s only international airport closes to night traffic after a series of daring air raids by guerrilla rebels. Travel agents said several major airlines had yet to finalise their new schedules, leaving many travellers scrambling for flights in and out of Colombo, the island nation’s capital.

The airport shares a runway with the Sri Lankan air force, which was targeted by Tamil Tiger rebels in four separate air raids — causing some flights to be diverted to the southern Indian city of Chennai.

Under the new security measures, Colombo’s Bandaranaike airport will only be open from 4:00 am to 10:00 pm (2230 to 1730 GMT).

Around 70 percent of passenger and cargo traffic out of Sri Lanka is controlled by SriLankan Airlines, which is partly owned and fully managed by Dubai’s Emirates Airlines.

Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways switched to daytime flying last week while Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific suspended flights following a Tiger air raid on April 29.

Cathay is yet to resume service to Colombo.

Airlines use Sri Lanka as a transit point for travel between Europe and the Far E