Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport

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Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport
මත්තල රාජපක්ෂ ජාත්‍යන්තර ගුවන්තොටුපළ
மத்தல ராஜபக்ஷ பன்னாட்டு விமான நிலையம்
MRI Airport logo.svg
Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport Check-in counters.jpg


HRI is located in Sri Lanka
Location of airport in Sri Lanka
Airport type Public
Owner Sri Lankan Government
Operator Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd
Serves Hambantota
Location Mattala, Sri Lanka
Elevation AMSL 48 m / 157 ft
Coordinates 06°17′20″N 81°07′25″E / 6.28889°N 81.12361°E / 6.28889; 81.12361Coordinates: 06°17′20″N 81°07′25″E / 6.28889°N 81.12361°E / 6.28889; 81.12361
Direction Length Surface
m ft
05/23 3,500 11,483 Asphalt

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) (also known as the Hambantota International Airport) (IATA: HRIICAO: VCRI) is an international airport serving the city of Hambantota in southeast Sri Lanka.[1] Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport is Sri Lanka's second international airport, after Bandaranaike International Airport. It is named after the Rajapaksa family. It is the newest and most developing airport in Sri Lanka. It is also the first greenfield airport in the country.

Control Tower

The new international airport was expected to expand the local aviation industry whilst being a catalyst for the country's economic development enabling international trade, tourism, vocational training and employment. It was being implemented as an eco-friendly project. The airport was estimated to cost US$210 million and, by the end of construction, will cover 2,000 hectares. It was built to be compatible with the latest Airbus A380 aircraft and has been designed according to recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization. According to Sri Lankan government officials, future domestic airline Air Hybrid, and international airlines Emirates, Enter Air, Etihad Airways, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and TUIfly showed interest in flying to Mattala, but none of these airlines confirmed these statements by government officials.[2] flydubai, with a daily flight on the Dubai-Colombo-Mattala-Dubai route, is now the only airline with service to the airport. Air Arabia, Rotana Jet, SriLankan Airlines and Mihin Air all cancelled service for commercial reasons.

The airport is designed to facilitate for over 800 foreign passengers at peak hours and several local passengers per every 1000 km² in side the buildings.[3] It will be made to support air-sea cargo transshipment in conjunction with the nearby Hambantota Port, which is about 15 miles away, and would act as an alternative to the Bandaranaike International Airport from the date of its completion. The Chinese government is providing financial assistance for the project.[4][5] The airport is being constructed by the China Harbour Engineering Company and that is their first airport construction project ever taken.[6] The airport is operated by Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd whom also provides the air navigation services in Sri Lanka.

The airport was declared open by the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, on 18 March 2013 and commenced operations with the landing of a SriLankan Airlines special Airbus A340 flight named 'City of Magam Ruhunupura' with the President on board.[citation needed]

It handled nearly 6000 passengers in the first two months after opening. The busiest international destination is Dubai closely followed Bangkok in Thailand. [3]

Domestic carriers Helitours and Cinnamon Air offer charter flights that connect the airport with Ratmalana Airport and Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.


It was initially planned to build an international airport serving the south of Sri Lanka at Weerawila, but the plans were scrapped due to environmental concerns. The site was then moved to Mattala, a small town 15 kilometres north of Hambantota. Maththala was a lesser known area with shrub jungle of many square kilometers. When the engineers approached the area they had to use hand tools to cut open the shrub cover and make a foot path towards the location. They spent their first nights in tree tops to avoid attacks from wild animals.[citation needed]

Construction of phase one began on 27 November 2009 at Mattala.[4] By the end of February 2012 The construction of the runway, apron and taxiways were completed ahead of schedule.

On 16 October 2012, a Hawker Beechcraft B200 King Air registered AP-CAB, belonging to the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan landed on runway 23 at 12.38 PM local time becoming the first aircraft to land at the new airport as requested by the Rajapaksa regime.[citation needed] It was an instrument testing aircraft fitted with ATC testing equipments. The test flights continued for 8 days for testing the ILS and other flight controls fixed in the new airport.

On 24 January 2013, Sri Lanka Minister of Civil Aviation Piyankara Jayaratne said in parliament that the airport would be declared open on 18 March 2013. A SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330-200 landed at the airport on 29 Jan 2013. This was the second plane to land, shortly followed by an Airbus A320-200, which carried 125 orphan children from Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.[7]

On March 2013, it was reported that certifications of compliance and certification of aerodrome was awarded to the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.[8]

As announced earlier the airport was opened for flight operations on 18 March 2013. To commemorate this occasion a special SriLankan Airlines Airbus A340 named 'City of Magam Ruhunupura' carrying the president and ministers landed on runway 05 at 10.55 AM and became the first passenger flight to land at airport.[citation needed] Another SriLankan Airlines Airbus A340, flight UL226, from Dubai becomes the first commercial flight to land at Mattala. Flights of flydubai carrying passengers from Dubai and Air Arabia from Sharjah followed soon afterwards, becoming the first international airlines to operate from Mattala International Airport.[citation needed] After six weeks of operation, Air Arabia suspended service on the route because of a lack of passengers. Flydubai began scheduled flights between Dubai in 21 May using a Boeing 737-800, it is the first airline to operate daily flights to the airport.

Planning and construction[edit]

This project will have two phases, with the first phase expected to be completed by the end of October 2012. The airport runway would be available for testing after September 2012 and would be open for commercial flights from early January 2013. The estimated cost of the project is US$200 million and the project was launched by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 27 November 2009.[9]

Phase one[edit]

Phase one began on 27 November 2009 at Mattala. The initial construction will cover an area of 800 hectares. The airport will have one runway and a taxiway that will be expanded in the second stage to allow larger planes to land. Environmental approval has been granted for the project. It will be constructed under an environmentally friendly green concept with the construction of several lakes and green landscapes included in the project. The project is designed and will be implemented by Sri Lankan engineers.[4]

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport Terminal building
Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport Check-in counters

On October 2012, the Super King 20 Test Aircraft, which belongs to the Pakistan Civil Aviation Department and features a dual engine, landed on the new runway to test the newly constructed runway and the instrumentation.[9]

  • 1 Million passengers per annum[10]
  • 45000 Mt of cargo per annum
  • 30000 aircraft movement per annum
  • 10 parking bays for aircraft
  • two aero bridges
  • 800 ha of land

Phase two[edit]

The second stage of the MRIA project expansion works at the airport is to be Complete end 2015 . This includes expansion of the airport's terminal building, aircraft parking apron and public utilities, full-length parallel taxi way, a flying school, an airport hotel and recreational facilities.

The second stage of the MRIA project will be to be completed by end 2015. This will expand the airport's capacity as follows:

  • 5 Million passengers per annum
  • 150,000 Mt of cargo per annum
  • 45,000 aircraft movement per annum
  • 20 parking bays for aircraft
  • 28 aero bridges
  • 2000 ha of land allocated for the project
  • 1200 ha of land


Terminal building


A new aerodrome designed to meet the ICAO specification for code 4F is to be built. Annual Service Volume of the aerodrome at short and medium/long term planning horizons will be 30,000 and 60,000 movements respectively.[citation needed]


The terminal building will be of area 12,000m2 (approximately) with the capacity to handle 1,000,000 passengers per annum.[citation needed]


Air traffic control (ATC) tower[edit]

The air traffic control tower of height 41m has been constructed at the highest elevation of the aerodrome (55m AMSL).[citation needed]

Airport fire and rescue[edit]

The AFRS will be the facilities to cater Category 10 requirements.

Visual, navigational, and landing aids[edit]

Airfield Ground Lighting System will comprise:

  • CAT I High Intensity Approach Lighting at RWY 23 end.
  • Simple Approach Lighting System at RWY 05 end.
  • Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) for RWY 05 and 23.
  • Runway edge lights, Runway threshold lights, Runway end lights, Runway centerline lights, apron edge lLights, apron flood lights etc.
  • Illuminated wind cone, Obstacle Limitation Guidance sings and Pavement Markings.

Navigational and landing aids:

  • ILS Cat I system for RWY 23 with Middle Marker
  • Air Traffic Management System to provide aid for Air Traffic Controlling operation
  • Aeronatical Message Handling System (AMHS)
  • Voice Communication and Switching System (VCCS)


The numbers given to the airport's sole runway is 05 and 23. It is 3,500 metres (11,482 feet). The runway is declared a code F from the ICAO, which allows Airbus A380-800 aircraft to use it.[citation needed]

The Runway dimensions are 3500m * 60m with 7.5m paved shoulders either side and 260m Runway safety area on both runway ends.[citation needed]


There will be two stub taxiways:[dated info]

  • Taxiway Alpha (Code F) Dimension: 360 * 60m (can handle Airbus A380-800)
  • Taxiway Bravo (Code C) Dimension: 362.5m * 25m

Other features[edit]

Hambantota International Airport will include domestic/regional and international passenger and cargo terminals, warehouses, as well as being compatible for seaplane/amphibious operations etc. It will have facilities for pilot training, technician training, aircraft maintenance and charter/private jet parking.

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Airlines Destinations
flydubai Dubai


Airlines Destinations
SriLankan Cargo Chennai[11]


  • To play a vital and supportive role in the development activity in the Hambantota region and capture market share of the regional traffic growth.
  • To promote air-sea transshipment hub operation in conjunction with the Hambantota Port.[12]
  • To play a key component in the development efforts of the Eastern and Southern coasts.
  • To be an alternate airport to Bandaranaike International Airport.[12]
  • To facilitate the establishment of a gateway for economic and investment infusion in Sri Lanka.


This project is expected to stimulate the development and infrastructure in the area, raising living standards of the people not only in Hambantota, but in nearby Matara, Moneragala and other close districts.[13] It will also benefit other parts of the country. It will also have a positive impact on tourism in the Southern Province. Unlike the previous Weerawila International Airport project this one will not affect agriculture in the area according to a government report. However it is not yet clear whether Yala National Park, Kalametiya and Bundala National Park would be affected in the long run even though it has been environmentally approved.[4]

The proposed extension of the rail link from Matara to Kataragama and the completion of the Colombo–Matara Expressway in next two years time would boost travel to the Southern Province. The new airport would serve as a cargo hub to the Eastern Province along with the Port of Hambantota which will be opened around the same time.[4] It will also serve the Hambantota Sport City which was nominated to host the Commonwealth Games in 2018.Providing a transport hub for athlete and cricketers.

As transit times to Sri Lankan tourist spots (like Nuwara Eliya, Galle, Arugam Bay, Yala National Park, Wilpattu National Park, etc.) is less from Hambantota airport than it is from Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, many tourists may take Hambantota as their gateway to Sri Lanka.[citation needed]


The project received some criticism as the new airport was built in former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's hometown, reportedly as a political decision. The Hambantota area is one of the poorest in the island nation and as such was not be expected to help the airport generate considerable passenger traffic.[citation needed] Many industry professionals criticised the project, instead calling for the government to further improve the already crowded Bandaranaike International Airport.[14] The Rajapakse government denied these claims pointing out that Bandaranaike International Airport was also being expanded parallel to this, and also that having only one international airport would create bottlenecks. Hambantota is now being rapidly developed as a second capital in the country.

Criticism is also directed to the fact some SriLankan Airlines flights, such as the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bandaranaike Airport, take a stopover at Mattala without any passengers boarding or disembarking. The airline defended its position, stating that its intent to use Mattala Airport is to promote tourism in the southern part, as well as problem regarding Bandaranaike's congestion.[15]

Incidents at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport[edit]

  • 11 January 2014, A flyDubai Boeing 737-800 flight FZ 551 aircraft traveling from Colombo to Dubai via Hambantota had met with an accident while flying from Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport to Dubai International Airport in United Arab Emirates. The airplane encountered the birds during its take-off from Mattala international airport.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ News Mattala gets priority over BIA
  2. ^ MRIA will match Gatwick soon
  3. ^ Construction work at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport starts[dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d e President Rajapaksa inaugurates proposed Hambantota Air Port construction work « Sinhale Hot News. (28 November 2009). Retrieved on 9 May 2012.
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. > Projects > New Projects > Mattala Hambantota International Airport. Retrieved on 9 May 2012.
  7. ^ SriLankan spreads its wings to bring the thrill of flying to children
  8. ^ [2][dead link]
  9. ^ a b First test flight successfully lands in Mattala | DailyFT – Be Empowered. (17 October 2012). Retrieved on 27 August 2013.
  10. ^ MR Intl. Airport promises ‘New journey begins here!’ | DailyFT – Be Empowered. (11 March 2013). Retrieved on 27 August 2013.
  11. ^ Sri Lankan start cargo service from HRI
  12. ^ a b The South Takes Off-Daily News Editorial. (28 November 2009). Retrieved on 23 March 2013.
  13. ^ Proposed Hambantota Airport in Srilanka | Shareordie. Retrieved on 9 May 2012.
  14. ^ Hambantota Airport Fueled By Politics | The Sunday Leader. Retrieved on 9 May 2012.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Mattala-Colombo SriLankan flight hit: Ice or birds?
  17. ^

External links[edit]