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ATF crisis in Sri Lanka turns opportunity for South India airports


The ongoing financial and political turmoil and the resultant fuel shortage in Sri Lanka is turning out to be advantageous to aviation turbine fuel (ATF) sales in South Indian airports like Thiruvananthapuram, Cochin and Chennai.

Several flights of Sri Lankan Airlines, Air Arabia, Jazeera Airways, Gulf Air and Air AirAsia Malaysia are depending on Indian airports starting from May onwards, giving additional revenue to oil marketing companies, airport operators and respective state governments. With the crisis intensifying in the island nation, more players have informed the oil marketing companies (OMCs) that they will start landing at Indian airports. Etihad Airways has informed that they will start landing in Cochin from July 15 onwards. 

According to a source from Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Sri Lankan Airlines itself operated 110 additional flights and uplifted 9,300 kilo litres (kl) of additional jet fuel from Indian airports. The number of flights diverting to India for refuelling has increased from June 29 with the Sri Lankan authorities informing airlines that no aviation turbine fuel will be available for supply to airlines. In addition to this, flights from other countries are also opting for technical landing for refuelling in South Indian airports. Sources indicated that Air Arabia and Gulf Air have started technical landing at Thiruvananthapuram and are operating one flight each a day lifting up to 30-40 kl a day.

According to the media reports, the technical landing for refuelling is expected to bring additional revenue of around Rs 1 lakh per flight for the airport operators and the state governments to get revenue from taxes on ATF. Mainly aircraft from the Middle East and that en route to Europe and the Middle East are depending on the Indian airports for refuelling.

The Adani-group-run Thiruvananthapuram airport is serving as a refuelling halt for Sri Lankan and West Asian airlines since May-end due to the fuel crisis in the island nation. Until now, the airport handled 90 flights which included 55 flights of Sri Lankan airlines bound for Sydney, Melbourne and Paris. In Sri Lanka, ATF was available only for air ambulances and flights making emergency diversions. This restriction would be in place till July 13.

Kochi airport handled 28 flights since June 29 which include those operated by Sri Lankan Airlines, Air Arabia, Jazeera Airways and Air AirAsia Malaysia. Kochi airport is offering a 25 per cent discount on landing charges it levies on airlines to attract more such technical flights. It was only in July that the Cochin airport started availing of technical landing facilities.

The escalation of political turmoil in Lanka has not resulted in large-scale cancellation of flights to the country. As of now, only flydubai has decided to cancel its Colombo flight.  A Sri Lankan Airlines spokesperson said on Saturday there is no change in its schedule. Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) spokesperson P S Jayan said Etihad Airways has approached the airport for a refuelling halt for its Colombo-Abu Dhabi flight from July 15.

In a statement, CIAL managing director S Suhas said that the management’s prompt response and adaptability to changing situations have helped it connect with foreign carriers and make available its fuel hydrant system. India’s ATF sales during the first three months of the current financial year increased by 86 per cent to 1.742 million tonnes, as compared to 0.937 MT during the April to June period of 2021-22.

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