Ukrainian Budget Carrier SkyUp operated the first charter flight to Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) on 28th December 2020 with 180 international tourists from Ukraine. The Boeing 737-900, flight no PQ555, arrived at MRIA at 1406 hrs. The flight was warmly welcomed with a water salute.
Cultural dancing performances had been organized in collaboration with Sri Lanka Tea Board to welcome and entertain the tourists. The cultural performances were related to tea and conveyed the legacy of over 150 years Ceylon Tea including Prashanthi, Tea ceremony, and Tea Pluckers Dance.
With the eagerly awaited reopening of borders for international tourists, SkyUp Airlines was the first Airline to carry international tourists to Sri Lanka. The Airline operating has plans to operate charter flights up to the end of March 2021. Since March 2020, the international airports in Sri Lanka had been closed for international tourists due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited (AASL) had made all required arrangements to facilitate the flight operation in compliance with the guidelines of Sri Lanka Health Authorities. Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga, Minister of Tourism, and Hon. D. V. Chanaka, State Minister of Aviation and Export Zones Development, were also present at the occasion to grace the flight operation.
Major General (Rtd) G. A. Chandrasiri, Chairman of AASL, said “as the civil airport operator, Airport & Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited – (AASL) made all required arrangements to facilitate the international flights and international tourists. These arrangements have been made according to the health guidelines of the Sri Lanka Health Authorities. Despite the challenges of COVID-19 global pandemic, moving ahead with His Excellency the President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s vision ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’, AASL is geared up to develop and promote the international airports in Sri Lanka. Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) has been identified as a key strategic international airport that has great potential to be developed as one of the most preferred exotic tourism-based destinations soon”.
SkyUp Airlines commenced operations in May 2018 and it is headquartered in Ukraine. Its main hub is Boryspil International Airport (KBP) which is located 29 km east of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. SkyUp has been continuously expanding its route map and currently operates scheduled and charter flights to over 25 countries. The Airline’s fleet consists of 11 Aircraft which is also the youngest fleet among Airlines in Ukraine with an average age of 11.5 years. SkyUp Airlines operate an all-economy Class cabin and offer tailor-made Airfares for passengers based on their travel needs. Sky Up Airlines is represented by Acorn Aviation (Private) Limited in Sri Lanka, which has been in the business of representing Airlines in the capacity of a General Sales Agent for Passenger and Cargo sales over the past two decades. Acorn Aviation which is a subsidiary of the Acorn Group, will provide the Ground Supervision and Support Services for SkyUp Airlines at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.