Map - Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (Hambantota International Airport)

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (Hambantota International Airport)
Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) (මත්තල රාජපක්ෂ ජාත්‍යන්තර ගුවන්තොටුපළ; மத்தல ராஜபக்ஷ சர்வதேச விமானநிலையம்) is an international airport serving southeast Sri Lanka. It is located in the town of Mattala, 18 km from Hambantota. It is the first greenfield airport and the third international airport in the country, after Ratmalana International Airport and Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.

MRIA was opened in March 2013 by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who ordered the construction of the airport. Initially, several airlines flew to the airport, including SriLankan Airlines which established a hub. However, due to low demand, almost all of these airlines left Mattala by 2018.

Due to the low number of flights, it has been proposed to offer long-term aircraft parking services as well as creating flying schools and maintenance services to be offered from the airport. In 2016, as the airport is not generating enough revenue to pay back the loans, the Sri Lankan government called for Expressions of Interest to run commercial activities. It was dubbed "The World's Emptiest International Airport" by Forbes due to its low number of flights despite the large size of the airport. However in 2020, newly elected Sri Lankan Government scrapped the negotiations with India to run the airport as a joint venture. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the airport has seen an increase in traffic due to repatriation, charter and seafarer flights. In 2022 the government again revived plans to run the MRIA as a Public Private Partnership as the airport continues to run at a loss.

A third international airport for Sri Lanka outside Colombo was considered for various reasons. Congestion was increasing at Bandaranaike International Airport, and an alternate airport was desired. In addition, the Rajapaksa government wanted to revitalise the tourism industry following the Sri Lankan Civil War. An airport in Hambantota District would be located close to several tourist attractions, including Arugam Bay, Nuwara Eliya and Yala National Park. Hambantota was also the home town of the president at time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

It was initially planned to expand Weerawila Airport into an international airport, but the plans were scrapped due to environmental concerns. The site was then moved to Mattala, a small town 15 km north of Hambantota.

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Map - Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (Hambantota International Airport)
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Sri Lanka (, ; ශ්‍රී ලංකා ; இலங்கை ), formerly known as Ceylon and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia. It lies in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Bay of Bengal, and southeast of the Arabian Sea; it is separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. Sri Lanka shares a maritime border with India and Maldives. Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is its legislative capital, and Colombo is its largest city and financial centre.

Sri Lanka has a population of around 22 million (2020) and is a multinational state, home to diverse cultures, languages, and ethnicities. The Sinhalese are the majority of the nation's population. The Tamils, who are a large minority group, have also played an influential role in the island's history. Other long established groups include the Moors, the Burghers, the Malays, the Chinese, and the indigenous Vedda.
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