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Friday, September 14, 2012 - 6.50 GMT
Following attacks on pilgrims flights from Colombo drastically reduced– Indian Immigration


After the recent attack on Sri Lankan pilgrims in Thanjavur, the load factor in flights from Colombo has drastically reduced. At a time when Sri Lanka was planning to increase its services to Colombo by three more flights in its winter schedule, the diminution in incoming passenger trend has come as a great blow to airlines, Times of India reported quoting Indian immigration sources.

Trichy airport offers daily flights to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Colombo. Sri Lankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka together operate 18 services a week to Colombo, their hub. While Sri Lankan Airlines flight arrives in Trichy at 8.35 am and 2.40 pm daily, Mihin operates four services a week on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. After the recent attack on Sinhala pilgrims on Tamil Nadu soil, the Sri Lankan government issued an advisory to its citizens not to venture into Tamil Nadu without taking enough precautions.

After the ethnic Eelam war came to an end, the Trichy-Colombo sector was patronized by the Sinhala public more than ever. The entry of Christian pilgrims was only a recent phenomenon. For instance, just a week prior to the Christian pilgrims' attack, around 150 Buddhist monks landed in Trichy and proceeded to Chennai in three hired buses. Usually, these monks make it a point to visit the Sri Lanka Maha Bodhi Centre at Kenneth Lane opposite Egmore railway station before going to Buddhist shrines such as Gaya and Sarnath. These pilgrims prefer Trichy, for it offers them an opportunity to visit other pilgrim centres in the region such as Sri Rangam Sri Renganathar temple, Thanjavur Big Temple and Samayapuram Maha Mariamman temple. The immigration officer said these people would continue to visit India for there was no hurdle in the issuance of visas, but they would rather prefer Trivandrum rather than Trichy.

Interestingly, the launching of the inaugural flight to Colombo from Madurai airport by SpiceJet could not have come at a more inopportune time. The first-ever international flight takes off from Madurai on September 20 and SpiceJet has trimmed down the fare to an incredible Rs 6,000 for a return ticket till October when their winter schedule takes effect. Sri Lankan Airlines will follow suit in the near future. Sources said though the inaugural flight was fully booked, the load factor in the return direction was less than 20%, a factor directly attributed to the recent attack on Sinhala pilgrims. However, one will not get all the seats for RS 6,000 as the pricing takes effect for every 10 seats on first-come-first-served basis, explained an employee of SpiceJet.

Moreover, the incident has also hit the travel, leisure and textile industry in Trichy as well. Sri Lankan travel agents said though the volume of loss could not be quantified immediately, it would nevertheless be in the region of 40 to 60% of lost ticket sales as most of the flights coming from Colombo are empty except for the transit passengers from Gulf countries. Sri Lankan Airlines at present runs 18 services a week including four by Mihin Lanka. The incoming Sinhala tourists patronized textiles of famous brands in Trichy, and now they will not risk their lives just for a pair of clothes, said an officer. Likewise, the leisure travellers to Colombo from Tamil Nadu who in the recent past chose the island to break the monotony of visiting only Kodaikanal or Ooty, might now prefer either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, said a travel agent.

The officer said that around 2,300 passengers fly out of Trichy every day, and an average of not less than 5,500 people come to the airport to see their family or friends off. These people contribute to the travel and leisure industry in the city. The fact that the airport was close at hand at a distance of a mere seven km from the city centre found favour with many working class passengers who take a bus to their destinations right across the airport.






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Last modified: September 14, 2012.

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