Capitalising on its central location between Europe, Asia and Africa, SriLankan Airlines is focusing on the enhancement of its services to existing destinations, as well as looking at new options, as part of its current five-year expansion plan.Chief executive Peter Hill said the carrier was implementing a threefold strategy aimed at both boosting the reputation of SriLankan as an international carrier of substance, as well as a regional airline offering frequent links between major gateway cities.
“With a new A340 aircraft in our fleet, we will launch services to Beijing this autumn, offering three flights a week as an extension of our Bangkok service,” he said.
“In addition, additional A320s means we can take advantage of the new open skies agreement with India to extend our connections on the sub-continent, inaugurating flights to Calicut from Colombo on July 1.”
Calicut is the 10th destination on SriLankan Airlines’ Indian network - and the 34th worldwide.
Hill said two years’ of consolidation were planned to enable SriLankan to add more frequencies on the routes it already serves: “We need double daily services between Colombo and Dubai for instance, as the demand is there, while our key London route could also accommodate twice daily frequency, which we hope to achieve soon.”
In addition, he said SriLankan was looking to add capacity in to major source markets such as Germany and Switzerland plus Tokyo, while new areas of potential being researched included Korea, South Africa and Australia.
“Even though we are offline in Australia, there was a 78 per cent increase in the number of visitors to Sri Lanka from Australia last year and these figures demonstrate the potential that exists to develop tourism in to the country through the establishment of new air links.”
As the third prong in its operational strategy, SriLankan is opening up the country with an air taxi service, offering fast and frequent transfers on Cessna Caravan amphibious aircraft between the airport at Colombo and major tourist destinations such as Kandy, Bentota and Trincomalee.
In tandem with route expansion, SriLankan is also to introduce a global booking engine this summer, facilitating reservations through the Internet.
The airline currently offers services to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta in the Far East; Male in the Maldives and 10 destinations in India, eight points in the Middle East, plus Paris, Zurich, Frankfurt and Munich, and London in Europe.
In addition, a recent code-share agreement with British Midland means passengers on SriLankan can connect to that carrier’s flights from London - these include Manchester, Bradford, Teesside, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast in the UK, plus Dublin, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris.
“While we do not see the need to be in the arena of the global airline alliances, we have our codeshare and operational connections with Emirates, as well as these other strategic arrangements,” said Hill.
“Codeshare routes with Emirates may well be extended, and we aim to promote this dynamic link more strongly in future.”