In the long gone era when the British was actively involved in Sri Lanka then called Ceylon was a British colony, with World War II on the Royal Air Force (RAF) built an airfield at Palaly; was soon very alive with planes flying in and out and dotted the clear blue sky sporting the insignia of fighters and transport planes of the RAF. When the war ended the RAF packed up from Palaly after gifting the Airport to the Department of Civil Aviation enabled them to begin civil flying at Palaly. The maiden voyage of Air Ceylon from Ratmalana to Palaly took place on 10 December 1947 and then on to Madras, India to became an international airport. DC-3, Nord 262 and Avro began operating scheduled flights from Palaly.
Thereafter Palaly got engulfed into the civil war zone and all civilian operations ceased; the Ratmalana Palali sector was later reopened after ending the civil-war in 2009. People started using these local flights from Ratmalana to Palaly in the absence of rail link and restricted road links into Jaffna peninsula with constrained travel by sea. But soon most of the private companies pulled out as the sector was not viable and it was Heli tours from Sri Lanka Air Force that kept on operating for a longer duration. Later in the year 2010 commercial flights by private operators began flying into and out of Palaly and the rest by the Sri Lankan Air Force.
Thereafter with domestic flights established plans were drawn up to re-open Palaly for international flights. Five domestic airlines have agreed to operate domestic flights to the redeveloped Palali International Airport (JAF) from October and two Indian airlines are expected to operate international flights to JAF. With this it is expected that the regional flights would take off from Ratmalana and other regional airports including Mattala to offer a round trip ticket. The domestic operators are expected to lease small aircraft with a seating capacity less than 90 seats for this operation. However Colombo international airport is still not included to felicitate these domestic flights.
It is expected that these domestic operators would later be granted permission to land in the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) when infrastructure improves, enabling these local domestic airline operators to pick up international traffic and fly them to local regional airports. Thus soon it will be possible for International passengers to book the flight direct to Jaffna airport via Colombo with transit facilities provided at the Colombo airport and fly to Jaffna airport.
Today Air India subsidiary ALLIANCE AIR test flight from Chennai to Jaffna landed at Jaffna International Airport at Palaly in Jaffna peninsula ahead of official of the scheduled opening on 17 October 2019. However it is clear from the video below, that there is still lot more to be done on the ground to complete the landscape and in terms of support services expected in an International Airport.