Dubai: After protests intensified in Sri Lanka amid political and economic unrest in the country, UAE's flydubai has suspended its flights to the South Asian country.
According to a statement by the airlines, the passengers who had booked their tickets will be refunded their money. "Flydubai flights between Dubai and Colombo Airport (CMB) have been suspended from July 10 until further notice. We will continue to closely monitor the situation on the ground in Sri Lanka," a flydubai spokesperson said in a statement on Monday, reported Khaleej Times.
However, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways said its flights to Colombo are operating as scheduled and the airways is closely monitoring the situation in Sri Lanka. "Etihad Airways passenger services between Abu Dhabi and Colombo are currently operating as normal. Starting July 14, select return services from Colombo to Abu Dhabi will make a short stop to refuel at Cochin International Airport. Etihad continues to closely monitor the situation in Sri Lanka," said an Etihad Airways spokesperson.
Earlier, in an advisory the UAE Embassy to Sri Lanka asked its citizens not to travel to the island nation and stay away from the areas which are hotspots for demonstrations. "Due to the current circumstances, the UAE Embassy in Colombo calls on citizens in Sri Lanka to take precautions and stay away from the demonstration areas, and contact the embassy in emergency cases... It also recommends that citizens wishing to travel to Sri Lanka postpone their travel," it said in a statement on its website.
In the month of April, the budget carrier flydubai had cited Colombo as one of its popular destinations. The flight saw an increase in demand for flights, said the media portal. "We apologise for the inconvenience caused to our passengers' travel schedules," said the flydubai statement.
The Dubai-based airline last month said it is preparing for a record-breaking summer amidst a surge in demand for travel after the Covid-19 pandemic. It expects to carry three million passengers over the busiest summer in the airline's history. It projected an average of 8,500 departures per month are scheduled across flydubai's network of 102 destinations, which exceeds pre-pandemic levels.
The development comes after thousands of people stormed into the President's House in Fort on Saturday. The dramatic visuals came from PM's official residence where they were seen playing carrom board, sleeping on the sofa, enjoying in park premises and preparing food for dinner.
Even Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also announced to step down from his posts amid the ongoing protests. However, the protesters who have occupied the residences of the President and Prime Minister have cleared that they will continue to occupy their houses until they resign from their posts.
The worsening economic situation in the country has led to increasing tensions and over the last few weeks, there were reports of several confrontations between individuals and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations where thousands of desperate members of the public have queued for hours and sometimes days.
Sri Lanka is suffering its worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948, which comes on the heels of successive waves of COVID-19, threatening to undo years of development progress. Earlier, on Saturday, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced in a press conference that the President will resign from his post on July 13.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa officially informed PM Wickremesinghe that he is resigning from his post. Meanwhile, former Sri Lankan cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya called July 9, the day when the demonstration started, a "public day." The oil supply shortage has forced schools and government offices to close until further notice.
Amid the fuel shortage in Sri Lanka, the 1990 emergency ambulance service has been suspended in several areas. The Suwa Seriya Ambulance Service had urged the public to refrain from calling the 1990 emergency ambulance service in the affected areas, Colombo Gazette reported.
The economic crisis has particularly impacted food security, agriculture, livelihoods, and access to health services.Sri Lanka is one of the few nations named by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which is expected to go without food due to the global food shortage expected this year.