Chartered flights for MR: UL not paid Rs 122.3 mn

The Presidential Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs owe SriLankan Airlines Rs. 122.3 million for chartered flights between 2009 and 2014 for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on irregularities at SriLankan Airlines, SriLankan Catering and Mihin Lanka was informed yesterday.
Manager – Revenue Management and Network Planning of SriLankan, Sumudu Priyanka Upatissa told the PCoI that the airline had written to the Presidential Secretariat and the Foreign Ministry but without success.

President Maithripala Sirisena had not booked any chartered flights during his tenure. "From what I know President Maithripala Sirisena flies on scheduled flights," Upatissa said.

Overall the Presidential Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have booked around 65 flights. While most of these flights have been paid for.

It was earlier revealed that flights chartered for Rajapaksa to travel to destinations like Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Rome and Bolivia, where SriLankan didn’t fly regularly.

A chartered flight to Johannesburg in December 2013, carried only 26 passengers though it had 243 seats. The Presidential Secretariat paid the airline Rs. 36 million for the flight. The aircraft, A340, had 38 business class seats and 205 economy class seats, he said.

Upatissa said another flight had been chartered to Tel Aviv, Israel, in January 2014, the Presidential Secretariat had paid the airline Rs. 46.3 million and 48 passengers had travelled in it, which could carry 312 passengers. The plane landed first in Amman, the capital of Jordan, where 42 passengers got off. Only six people flew to Tel Aviv.

According to the UL Manager Network Planning, another flight chartered by the Presidential Secretariat to take 39 passengers to Bolivia in June 2014 cost the State Rs. 57 million. The aircraft could carry 312 passengers.

The Presidential Secretariat has not paid Rs. 43.4 million for a chartered flight to Rome in October 2014. Only 69 passengers had travelled in that aircraft, which could carry 312 passengers, he said.