SriLankan Airlines is fast turning Colombo into a hub for air travel, steadily increasing the number of passengers in transit through the island’s international airport.hree years ago, only 28% of passengers carried by SriLankan through Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) were in transit - a little over a quarter. The bulk of travellers were tourists visiting Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans returning from overseas.
Today, the number of transit passengers has more than doubled, and the total number of passengers carried by the airline has increased by a third. Nearly half of its traffic (46%) is now transit passengers, a number that is continuously increasing.
Peter Hill, CEO of SriLankan, said: “We at SriLankan take great pride in offering rapid connectivity to travellers through Colombo, in order to maximise convenience. We actively work towards minimising waiting periods which we know is one of the most annoying aspects of international air travel.”
The rise in transit passengers has been as steady as it has been impressive, from 28% in 2003/04 to 36% the next year, 42% in 2005/06, to the current 46%.
Transit numbers remained steady at 46% during the six-month period between April and September 2007, despite flight schedules being disrupted for several months due to a temporary night-time closure of BIA. With the airport now back to its 24-hour operation, the number is expected to increase.
Manoj Gunawardena, Head of Worldwide Passenger Sales, said: “We offer passengers a one-stop option for travel between regions as far apart as Europe and the Far East. Our flight arrival and departure banks are constantly being improved to reduce long transit times. However BIA is perhaps the best airport in the region to spend time if a passenger has to.”
BIA boasts of some of the most modern comforts and amenities among airports anywhere, and has a reputation as the finest in South Asia. Although it does not compare in size to the world’s major hubs, it has a new terminal with modern aerobridges, sophisticated passenger counters and baggage handling systems, and a well-stocked duty free shopping complex. SriLankan’s Business Class Lounge there has drawn praise from high-end travellers as being second to none.
With SriLankan having positioned Colombo as the Gateway to India, a large proportion of transit passengers are flying to and from the 11 cities that the airline serves there. SriLankan last year became the first foreign carrier to operate 100 weekly flights to India. It is a firm favourite among South Indian labour traffic to the Middle East, North Indians travelling to the Far East for leisure, and Indians domiciled overseas who are visiting their country of origin. The airline’s route network now serves 54 cities in 28 countries.
But an increasing number of travellers are using Colombo from other regions. These include Middle Eastern travellers on vacation en route to the Far East; Europeans travelling to the Maldives and Thailand; and Japanese heading for the Maldives.
Many of those in transit are customers of SriLankan Holidays, the leisure arm of the airline, which provides excellent value-for-money packages to many of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia.