The phone call made by an “influential crew member” SriLankan Airlines Chairman Nishantha Wickremasinghe‘s to get a UL flight to leave ahead of schedule, despite the fact that the aircraft was waiting for 80 Paris bound passengers to arrive from Male, Maldives has cost the national carrier a whopping Rs. 6.2 million (35,00 Euros) the Sunday Times newspaper has revealed today.
Colombo Telegraph revealed that Chathurika Muhandiramge, a member of the UL flight crew who had ‘influence’ over the airline Chairman who is also First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa’s brother, called Wickremasinghe to get the flight UL 110 from Colombo to Paris to take off ahead of schedule, leaving the tour group from Maldives behind.
The Sunday Times said the misconnect had forced SriLankan Airlines to foot the bill to put up the 75 unfortunate passengers at a hotel on the night of January 25. The passengers then had to be put on a SriLankan flight to Frankfurt on January 26 and then onwards to Paris on other airlines, all at cost to the national carrier.
The Sunday Times reported that a SriLankan Airlines flight from Colombo to Paris was supposed to wait until a tour group of some 80 passengers going to the French capital arrived from the Maldivian capital of Male, but had suddenly taken off after “an influential crew member” had intervened.
“However after a short wait, it suddenly took off without the inbound passengers from Male. The 80 tourists were transferred to other carriers,” the Sunday Times report said.
“The talking point on the corridors of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) was whether an “influential” flight crew member with connections to the top telephoned a big wig and said the long wait is troubling her. Instructions came for the flight to take off for Paris immediately” the newspaper reported.
Chathurika Muhandiramge had put a phone call through to the Chairman to ask him to order that the flight take off ahead of schedule to Paris.
The cost of rerouting the 80 passengers from Male on other flights would have had to be borne by Sri Lankan Airlines and therefore by the Sri Lankan tax payer since the airline is operating at a massive loss.
Recently Wckramasinghe diverted a commercial UL flight to Singapore to have himself, his wife and a guest picked up from Singapore’s Changi Airport. Telephoning the airline, Wickramasinghe ordered that the scheduled SriLankan direct flight from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Colombo be diverted to Singapore so that he and his entourage could be picked up on the way. This was because Wickramasinghe could not wait for the scheduled SriLankan flight from Singapore to Colombo that was to take off from Changi in just two hours.
The National carrier has been running in to hundreds of millions of rupees of losses since its management was taken back from Emirates Airlines by the Rajapaksa Administration. Wickramasinghe is the elder brother of First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa and has no experience or formal education that qualifies him to be the head of an airline.