Flights of fancy
The end of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war heralds the dawn of a new age of tourism for the island nation. With luxe property offerings dotted across the country and revered surf beaches along the east coast, tourism operators are keen to make travel between the country’s many and varied holiday destinations less fraught.
While private investment in the hotel market continued through the later stages of the war, civil infrastructure by way of roads and public transportation has not kept step. That is why the national carrier, Sri Lankan Airlines, saw fit to provide visitors with the option of flying between key destinations, launching Sri Lanka Air Taxi in December 2010. The service has eliminated the successive, gruelling six and seven-hour road trips otherwise required between towns.
Most visitors to Sri Lanka are keen to embark on a whistle stop tour of the island. Moving between the tea plantations in the highlands of Hatton to the spiritual centre of Kandy to the must-surf beaches of Tangalle and the historic colonial splendour of the Dutch-Portuguese fort town of Galle. Sri Lankan Air Taxi has daily scheduled flights between these destinations, and also offers private charter services, to ensure that a diverse itinerary is possible.
The air taxis provide connections to flights landing at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International airport, however the transfer entails a 20-minute drive to the seaplane “airstrip” – a stretch of Colombo’s Kelani River. Arriving at a Buddhist temple, complete with flowering jackfruit trees and saffron-robed monks wandering in the gardens, passengers wait on the edge of the river for their plane to arrive.
Fleet: Two 15-seat De Havilland Twin Otter sea planes. There are plans to increase the fleet to nine over the coming year.
Staff: Two pilots per aircraft and two ground staff at each destination landing strip. No stewards on board.
Uniform: Pilots and ground crew wear navy trousers and crisp, white shirts.
In-flight entertainment: Glance out the window. Flights to Kandy and Hatton fly over jungle, tea plantations and terraced rice crops. Flights to Tangalle allow spectacular views of Sri Lanka’s south coast.
In-flight catering: Complimentary bottle of water.