Guide to Bandaranaike International Airport

Bandaranaike International Airport, located in Katunayake, Sri Lanka, serves as the main international gateway for the island nation, handling over 9 million passengers a year. The airport is named after former Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike is the busiest airport in the country. It operates as a hub for SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier, facilitating connections to a network of destinations in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Bandaranaike International Airport

Initially opened in 1967, Bandaranaike International Airport has undergone numerous expansions to accommodate the growing number of passengers and flights. The airport features a range of passenger amenities, including several lounges, duty-free shops, and restaurants, to provide a comfortable experience for travellers. As Sri Lanka’s primary aviation facility, it plays a critical role in the nation’s economy and tourism industry.

Over the years, the airport has implemented modern technologies and processes to enhance operational efficiency and passenger convenience. It is equipped with facilities to handle wide-body aircraft, reinforcing its position as an important player in regional air traffic. The airport’s strategic location also aids its function as a transit point between the East and the West.

History and Development: Bandaranaike

Bandaranaike International Airport has undergone several significant transformations since its establishment, including expansion phases and a series of renovations which enhanced its capacity and facilities.


The airport was officially opened in 1967 under the name “Katunayake International Airport” and was later renamed to honour former Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. It was constructed to serve as Sri Lanka’s premier international aviation hub.

Expansion Phases

  1. Phase I: In the 1970s, the first expansion included the development of a new terminal and supporting infrastructure.
  2. Phase II: The 1980s saw further growth with a second terminal for arrivals and an extension of the runway to accommodate larger aircraft.
  3. Phase III:
    • 2005-2010: The introduction of a new passenger terminal building (Terminal 2) increased the airport’s capacity substantially.
    • 2017: Notably, the airport launched its latest expansion project, aiming to double passenger handling capacity with a new terminal and improved airfield facilities.


Bandaranaike International Airport has been periodically renovated to maintain and improve its operations and passenger experience.

  • 2001: The airport underwent a major renovation to modernize facilities, including upgrades to aerobridges, baggage systems, and duty-free areas.
  • 2011-2013: A comprehensive refurbishment of the existing terminals and the installation of new air navigation systems were significant milestones.

Facilities and Services: Bandaranaike

The Bandaranaike International Airport provides a range of facilities and services designed to cater to the needs of travellers and cargo handlers. From multiple terminals serving different flight categories to several amenities that ensure a comfortable transit, the airport is equipped with efficient ground transportation options and cargo services for comprehensive logistical support.


Bandaranaike International Airport houses three main terminals. Terminal 1 is dedicated to international flights and has 12 gates. Terminal 2 is the newest addition, serving both international and some domestic flights. Terminal 3 is reserved for domestic travel. All terminals feature necessary services like check-in counters, security checkpoints, and baggage claim areas.

Airport Amenities

They offer a variety of amenities for passengers, including:

  • Restaurants: Different dining options are available, ranging from fast food to sit-down eateries.
  • Shops: Duty-free shopping, bookstores, and souvenir shops cater to travelers’ needs.
  • Lounges: Several airline lounges provide spaces for relaxation and work.
  • Wi-Fi: Free internet access is available throughout the terminals.
  • Medical Facilities: An on-site medical centre offers emergency services and routine health checks.

Ground Transportation

Travelers have several ground transportation options:

  • Taxi Services: Prepaid and metered taxis are accessible outside the arrival area.
  • Bus Services: Public and private bus services connect the airport to key locations.
  • Car Rentals: Several car rental agencies operate within the airport premises.
  • Rail Links: A nearby railway station provides connections to the national rail network.

Cargo Services

Bandaranaike International Airport’s cargo terminal is equipped with facilities to handle a variety of goods. Benefits of the cargo services include:

  • Cold Storage: For perishables like food and pharmaceuticals.
  • Secure Storage: For valuable goods requiring enhanced security.
  • Customs Clearance: A streamlined process aids in efficient cargo handling.

Operations and Management: Bandaranaike

Bandaranaike International Airport is managed by a specific authority that oversees its operations, ensures coordination with airlines and destinations, and upholds strict security measures.

Airport Authority

The Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited (AASL) is responsible for the operation and management of Bandaranaike International Airport. It handles airport operations, including maintaining runways, and terminals, and facilitating air traffic control.

Airlines and Destinations

Bandaranaike International Airport serves as a hub for several airlines. Major carriers include:

  • SriLankan Airlines (Flag carrier, multiple global destinations)
  • FlyDubai (Middle East, Asian Subcontinent)
  • Qatar Airways (Doha)

The airport offers flights to a variety of international destinations across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Australia.

Security Measures

The airport enforces stringent security protocols to ensure passenger safety. Some of these measures include:

  • Screening: All passengers undergo thorough screening at checkpoints.
  • Surveillance: Continuous monitoring with CCTV throughout the premises.
  • Access Control: Strictly regulated access to sensitive areas within the airport.

Economic Impact

Bandaranaike International Airport serves as a significant catalyst for Sri Lanka’s economic growth, facilitating trade and tourism while providing numerous employment opportunities.

Contribution to Economy

Bandaranaike International Airport is pivotal in supporting Sri Lanka’s transportation infrastructure and logistics. It is the island’s primary international gateway, handling over 9 million passengers in pre-pandemic years. The airport contributes to the economy by enabling:

  • Tourism Growth: It supports the tourism industry, which accounts for around 10% of the country’s GDP.
  • Cargo Handling: It is a hub for the import and export of goods, with a dedicated cargo terminal that processes thousands of metric tonnes annually.

Employment Opportunities

Employment at and around Bandaranaike International Airport spans various sectors, including aviation services, retail, and hospitality. This generates direct and indirect jobs:

  • Direct Employment: It directly employs thousands in roles such as airport operations, security, and customs.
  • Indirect Employment: The airport’s presence bolsters employment in related industries—hotels, restaurants, and transport services benefit from airport-associated business.