Colombo’s Ratmalana Airport Restarts International Flights After 54 Years

The Sri Lankan government is all set to allow international flights to resume at Colombo’s Ratmalana Airport (RML) after a gap of nearly 54 years. The announcement came from DV Chanaka, State Minister of Aviation and Development of Export Zones.

History of Ratmalana airport

Ratmalana Airport is the island nation’s oldest airport and also the first to operate international flights. It was established in 1938 and served as the principal point of entry into Sri Lanka’s largest city for over 30 years. However, the government decided to build a larger airport to the north of Colombo in the 1960s, and RML handed over all international traffic to Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB). The new airport was inaugurated in 1967 and has been serving as Colombo’s main airport since then.

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More recently, RML was operated for domestic and private flights. The Sri Lankan Air Force also jointly uses the airport as a base.

International flights after nearly 54 years

With the commencement of international flights to RML, passengers traveling to the South Asian country via air will have another option to enter Colombo. Though it may take some time for major carriers to return to the airport, the resumption of international flights is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister Chanaka told Daily News,

“The Tourism Industry is now gradually recovering.”


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A significant part of the Sri Lankan economy is supported by the tourism industry. Photo: Getty Images.

Indeed, the Sri Lankan economy heavily depends on tourism revenue from international passengers, so the addition of a new airport is welcome news. However, RML only has one runway, which is around 5,800 ft. lung. In comparison, CMB’s runway length stands at nearly 11,000 ft, almost double that of Ratmalana. This puts a serious constraint on the type of aircraft that can operate at this airport.

As a result, only regional jets can use Ratmalana Airport unless the government decides to extend RML’s only runway by a few thousand feet. Therefore, we only expect regional international flights to operate from RML to neighboring countries like Maldives and India.

Maldivian to start international flights soon

Wasting no time to grab the opportunity, Maldives national carrier Maldivian announced the commencement of thrice-weekly flights to RML from its Malé (MLE) hub. The flights will be operated by the airline’s 50-seat DeHavilland Canada Dash-8 aircraft. Ratmalana is an attractive destination for Maldivian for two main reasons- firstly, it is the closest Sri Lankan airport to the Maldives. Moreover, approximately 9,000 Maldivian citizens live close to RML, and a regular service to the airport will save a few hours in traveling time to CMB.



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Thrice-weekly flights from Male to Ratmalana start from March 27th. Photo: GCMapper

Flights start from March 27th on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays each week, with tickets now available for MVR 3,312 and MVR 3,988 (USD 215 and USD 260) for economy promo and economy flex, respectively. Maldivian’s Dash-8-300 will leave MLE as flight Q2 944 at 0600 and reach RML at 0840 before returning an hour later on the same day.


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