Maldivian (Q2, Malé) will launch flights to Hambantota and Colombo Ratmalana in Sri Lanka, becoming the first carrier to offer international services to either of the airports, Sri Lanka's Daily News has reported.

The Chairman of Airport and Aviation Services Sri Lanka (AASL), G.A. Chandrasiri, said that flights will be launched "soon", without disclosing any further details. He added that the Sri Lankan government was in talks with a "large number" of foreign airlines interested in serving Hambantota.

Hambantota, an airport in southern Sri Lanka, was built as a flagship project under the orders of the former strongman president (and the current prime minister) Mahinda Rajapaksa. Dubbed "the world emptiest airport", Hambantota failed to attract any sustained large-scale traffic. The greenfield project was supposed to kickstart the economy in Rajapaksa's home district and was almost entirely financed by the EXIM Bank of China. The nearby Hambantota Harbour was also financed by China and is currently leased to Chinese investors. In 2018, flydubai ended its services to Hambantota via Colombo Int'l. Since then, the airport has only seen domestic traffic operated by Cinnamon Air (C7, Colombo Int'l) using Cessna (single turboprop) 208B Grand Caravans.

Ratmalana served as Colombo's main gateway before it was gradually supplanted by Bandaranaike International Airport from the '60s onwards. However, the ch-aviation capacities module shows that FitsAir continues to operate weekly service to Batticaloa in the eastern part of the country from Ratmalana.

Both airports were opened to international traffic by a government decree that went into effect on January 1, 2020.

Chandrasiri added that to make the two airports more attractive to tourists, the government will open duty-free zones at both of them.

Maldivian did not respond to ch-aviation's request for more information about its planned operations.