In a rare and interesting development, the Air Force of Sri Lanka has launched domestic, civilian air service for tourists, between Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, and the high-security Palaly Airbase in the Jaffna peninsula in the country’s north. The Air Force’s tourist service will operate between Ratmalana Air Force Base in Colombo and Palaly Airbase, using the Air Force’s Y-12 aircraft.
The Air Force said in a press release that it will also start domestic flights between Colombo and Eastern Trincomalee as well as between Colombo and the central city of Sigiriya soon.
The flights between Colombo and Palaly will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The return fare between Colombo and Palaly is 19,100 Sri Lankan rupees.
The Air Force’s charter flights will operate once a week from Colombo to the tourist town of Sigiriya in central Sri Lanka on Saturdays. The flight will return on the same day to Colombo.
The return fare between Ratmalana Air Force Base in Colombo and Sigiriya will be 9,000 Sri Lankan rupees.
The service from Ratmalana Air Force Base in Colombo to Trincomalee will operate on Saturdays, returning to Colombo the following day. The fare between Colombo and Trincomalee is 15,300 Sri Lankan rupees.
According to the Air Force, the domestic tourist flights – its peacetime operation after having defeated the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009 – are being operated only as a “service” and not for making profits.
Tickets for the Air Force’s flights can be bought at Katunayake Airport as well as at the Air Force Base in Slave Island.
According to the press release of the Sri Lanka Air Force, while Sri Lankan citizens can travel to Palaly freely, foreigners will have to get clearance from the Ministry of Defence.
While Sri Lankan citizens are required to produce the national identity card, foreigners will have to produce their passports.
The Sri Lankan Air Force’s civilian tourist service, called Helitours, also includes transportation from international destinations to domestic destinations.
The air fare in dollar terms per head will start from $70 upwards, the Air Force said.
An information centre of Helitours has started functioning at the international airport at Colombo to help the tourists use the Air Force’s facility.
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