Mattala International Airport Navigation Complex

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Wishlisted by Matt Mayer

A 12,000 square metre terminal building, 12 checkin counters, a capacity for a million passengers a year, and no flights. Hidden in the jungle near the city of Hambantota, the dream was for this to become Sri Lanka's second major international airport. But this underdeveloped region of fishing villages seems to have been picked because it was the home region of president Mahinda Rajapaksa rather because of any actual demand. Bankrolled by USD5 billion of loans from China, who were more than willing to help out countries in the region in exchange for buy-in on their "Belt and Road" vision, construction proceeded smoothly, but as soon as the airport opened it was clear that it would be a struggle to attract passengers. While Sri Lankan Airlines were strong-armed into operating flights, with a change of president in 2015 they withdrew operations and the airport was effectively mothballed. Ironically, real elephants can occasionally be spotted wandering on the runway tarmac of this white elephant, undisturbed by the possibility of a plane landing.


Open today: 24 hours

Mattala, Sri Lanka

+94 472 031 000

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