Sri Lankan airline chief calls for fully liberalized skies with India

June 04, 2010 (LBO) – Sri Lanka and India should fully liberalize air services within the two countries, further strengthen links between them and set an example to South Asia, the head of the island’s state-run national carrier said. India then allowed private airlines to fly to Colombo and other South Asian countries.

Sri Lankan Airlines even now flies more than 50 times a week to India down from 100 before the economic downturn, and is the top foreign carrier to the country.

Wickremasinghe said India’s land mass was more than 50 times that of Sri Lanka. India had a population of over a billion people compared to 20 million in the case of Sri Lanka which showed that “asymmetry of land has no bearing” on what could be achieved.

India was now the top source of visitors to Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka was among the top ten to India, he said.

Sri Lanka was hoping to attract more than 2.5 million tourists by 1016 with 500,000 from India.

Wickremasinghe said the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ILFTA) signed ten years ago had expanded economic links between the people of the two countries.

“ILFATA was a sound foundation for trade,” he said. “Both countries have recognized that there are many more opportuniti