The troubled budget carrier Mihin Lanka has been forced to suspend operations indefinitely, from the beginning of this month, for want of aircraft, as exclusively reported in The Sunday Times last week in a story titled Mihin Air craftless? .
Several attempts over the past few days to reach Mihin s head of operations Athula Dissanayake for comment have failed. Mr Dissanayake had left a message to say he could not talk because he was out of the country, but aviation sources said he had returned to the country yesterday.
The carrier s last aircraft, an Airbus A-321 taken on wet lease from BH Air, based in Bulgaria, was reclaimed by its owners on Thursday, with all the aircraft s staff, equipment and stores. It is understood that the cash-strapped carrier, which in its first year of operation was already billions of rupees in debt, was unable to come up with the cash to renew the lease. Mihin began operations in April last year and stopped flying a year later, at the end of last month. Mihin Lanka s controversial CEO Sajin de Vass Gunewardena was due to leave the airline at the end of April this year.
Meanwhile, G. T. Jayaseelan, SriLankan Airlines country manager for Beijing, who was approached by the government to succeed Mr Gunewardena, has returned to Beijing following discussions with secretary to the Sri Lankan Treasury and SriLankan Airlines chairman Dr. P. B. Jayasundera.
Mihin Lanka has been recently scouring markets in Europe and India in a bid to obtain new aircraft on a dry lease, at a lower cost. According to unconfirmed reports, Mihin Lanka representatives returned to the country yesterday after selecting two 19-year-old aircraft in France. The Treasury is expected to cover the cost of the lease rental.
Meanwhile, sources say that under Sri Lankan aviation regulations aircraft over 15 years old may not be registered in the country.
Not long ago, the airline brought down two brand new buses and took on lease for US$223,000 per month ground handling equipment. But these items have been idling at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) for the past two months.
It has been pointed out that buses and step-ladders have been rendered redundant at the airport, which now provides bridges that allow aircraft direct access to passenger terminals.