Flights to Arugam Bay, Pottuvil: Ampara airport a vital hub


There is a lot of talk about opening up the treasures of Sri Lanka’s neglected east coast (such as Arugam bay/Pottuvil) to the wider world. However one of the biggest obstacles to such a process it getting there. Currently Arugam bay/Pottuvil is a 8 hour drive from Colombo – which doesn’t compare well with the 10-11 hour flying time from Colombo to London. The combination of regular domestic air services to Ampara airport and local entrepreneurs can remove this major logistical hurdle to developing this area.

Ampara airport (Air Force Base) is not exactly new door to Arugam bay. Yet it is the closest runway accessible via the existing road network. Current transport services such as the AbaY Taxi – which currently specialises in travel from Colombo airport to Arugam Bay – are well placed to make the air bridge viable.

The end of the war has highlighted the pent up demand for domestic aviation services in Sri Lanka. Even the Sri Lanka Air Force has got into the domestic aviation market to fill the demand for flights to Jaffna. Currently it seems that the supply constricted by war time restrictions, and is slow to meet the demand. Jaffna understandably remains the political and economically viable priority. Currently the only arial access to Arugam bay seems to be charters via Deccan Aviation (Lanka) which is not for every pocket.

Hopefully, the entry of further actors into Sri Lanka’s domestic aviation market will make flight affordable, and additional destinations more viable. Arugam bay’s tourism potential, and Ampara airport seems to offers a ready made market for those willing to take the first steps. As with most things in the process will not be so straight forward. Easier access to the wider world will have consequences to the way of life in Arugam bay. Start typing “arugam bay” into google and you’ll notice that among the most popular search term prompts are “arugam bay real estate” and “arugam bay land”. Yet the consequences of peace and the inevitable changes must be faced. Ideally with a calm mind and healthy optimism. On the positive side, the basic ingredients of making getting to Arugam Bay and Pottuvil easier and financially viable already exist.

13 comments

  1. “Opening up” and easing access may certainly create economical benefits to the area but the inevitable result is a eventual deterioration of the very attractions that make a site a destination. And sadly, sooner than later that economic benefit consolidates in the hands of a few, usually unscrupulous characters. Consider such once beautiful places like N’Eliya and Hikkaduwa during the ‘season’ – the chaos, the garbage, the sanitation nightmares, the boorish conduct… of the tourist, we have such a long way to go.

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    • Sadly true. The same sort of stuff happens in the first world too. Perhaps the East coast is still cut off enough that the development will be gradual. One benefit is that even with frequent air travel there will be a cost factor that will keep the visitor volume down – enough to prevent the “industrialised” mass tourism of the West coast.

      or am i being naive?

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  2. Good article, good comment, welcome ping back.
    In addition it may be added, that there is consideration for some time to open a new airfield close to Arugam Bay itself.
    Arugam.info may publish the entire content, as it is relevant to the Bay itself.

    A perfect landing strip actually exists already locally, with aircraft approach across the lagoon.
    Environmental considerations, however might delay or stall this idea, which would most certainly give a tremendous boost to the neglected region.
    Hans
    PS.: The Google search reveals results as mentioned, but depending on which Country you’re in. Try to change your location and observe different suggestions.
    Pages from Sri Lanka, for example, would be top ranked in S.L. itself – but appear almost nowhere abroad.

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    • Thank you😀 Is the landing strip you mention in use? Curious to know if it can be spotted on Google Earth. I’m surious to know what the people in the area think about regular Colombo-Ampara or even Colombo-Arugam bay flights?

      Interesting point about the Google search stuff. I usually use google.com as opposed to google.lk. I should have mentioned that the search suggestions for “arugam bay real estate” and “arugam bay land” come far below “hotels” and “surfing”😀

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  3. my family is actually from the east – a village about 21 km to the east of ampara on the coast and I have been crying for a regular flight to the east for some time. the 8-10 hour is just so exhausting and the in a car/jeep the return journey works out to about LKR 10k (mind you you can carry 4 people comfortably in a jeep). therefore i would gladly pay a 50-100% premium for a flight out there without having to waste 2 days of travel up and down ( this what airfares to Jaffna cost I think). I spoke to Deccan about this – having a commuter hop : Colombo-Ampara-Koggala-Colombo twice a day and i think there would be enough takers..btw there is Daya Aviation as well but they don’t seem to have got their operation off the ground (excuse the pun) http://lankaairport.blogspot.com/2008/03/daya-aviation-to-expand-domestic.html

    btw – keep feeding the voices in your head they have made for some excellent posts in the last few weeks – keep it up old boy

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    • I can imagine the frustration – I can barely stay inside a vehicle for barely half that time. I wonder if anyone who can run a domestic air service i jumping on the Colombo – Jaffna route because it has the most vocal demand and a significant undersupply? or its the exclusive charter biz like Daya Aviation. Hope a middle ground will develop sooner.

      As for flights east have you check out the supposedly “free” rides on SLAF planes that was mentioned under “Air Passage” in the “Services” section of the Defence Ministry website? Seems straight forward but might be a bureaucratic jungle as well.

      The SLAF has a parachute training course at Ampara AFB so I bet there has to be regular flights there. Or so I’m guess from the comments I got in a previous Google Earth post.

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  4. I HAVE READ THE ABOVE ARTICLE REGARDING THE AIR FIELD IN ARURUGAM BAY AND POTTIWIL. IT IS A GOOD MOVE TO DEVELOP THE COUNTRY.
    I AM IN A POSITION TO ARRANGE A LOAN TO THE GOVERNMENT FROM A FOREIGN COUNTRY PROVIDED THE GOVERNMENT OF SRI LANKA WILING TO GIVE A BANK GUARANTEE .
    IF THIS IS SUCCESSFUL IT WILL HELP FOR THE TOURISM INDUSTRY.

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  5. What is the length of runway required for the proposed Arugam Bay regional airport?
    I am informed that a perfect landing strip already exists, but only for GA (General Aviation).
    It is said, however, that the existing 300m or so long strip could, however be extended.
    By further land purchases and acquisition of some lagoon land.

    Mr. A.M. ABEYWARDHANA:
    We suggest you contact Mr. Supem de Silva on 07777 6666 5.
    He knows all about this large piece of land and maybe you can sort something out between yourselves.
    But will this Government support the idea – that’s the BIG question.

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    • Sorry for the delay in your comment appearing. For some reason it got stuck in the spam filter.

      I’m curious as to the shot landing strip you are referring to. is it visible from google earth?

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  6. I have to say I am a little wary of all the ‘development’ happening in this area. The one good thing though is that I can look forward to having the archealogical sites in the East more accessible.

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