SriLankan Airlines has said it is evaluating flights to Australia as part of a new long-term growth plan. As well as a range of other destinations, the carrier is considering non-stop flights between Colombo and both Sydney and Melbourne, which have strong Sri Lankan communities and considerable prospects for tourist traffic.
The airline said that a final decision on new routes and the acquisition of up to five more aircraft will be made by the end of 2004, with a view to commencing services on new routes during 2005.
The evaluation of flights to Australia is based on the use of four-engined, long haul Airbus A340-300 aircraft, the mainstay of the airline’s current fleet of 17.
“Sri Lanka and the Maldives are emerging as new and exciting destinations for Australian travellers, and there are strong Sri Lankan communities in Australia who want nonstop flights to Colombo,” said the airline’s Chief Executive, Mr Peter Hill.
“We also operate 66 flights per week from Colombo to 10 destinations in India, and from October we will increase to 77 flights,” he said.
Although SriLankan Airlines is currently an off-line carrier in Australia - that is, it has a sales presence here, but no flights by its own aircraft - there was a 78 per cent increase in the number of visitors to Sri Lanka from Australia last year, said Mr Hill. Many of them connected in Singapore with SriLankan Airlines services to Colombo.
“We believe Sri Lanka is entering a new golden age of tourism, and that there is enormous potential to develop the market through establishment of fresh international air routes,” said Mr Hill.
“As well as new international services, we are expanding tourism opportunities within Sri Lanka with a unique new network of float plane services from Colombo to lakes and rivers in the highlands - services which in most cases take no more than 30 minutes to fly, compared with up to six hours by road.
“These new services have enabled us to provide for the first time easy access to some of the most beautiful but remote destinations in Sri Lanka,” said Mr Hill.