SriLankan Airlines to expand operations from India

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on January 24, 2020

V Ravindran, Regional Manager – India and Bangladesh, SriLankan Airlines   -  Debasish Bhaduri

SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier of the island nation, is planning to ramp up operations in India within this calendar year (2020). This would include adding new destinations such as Ahmedabad and Calicut – and an increase in frequency from existing cities such as Kolkata, Coimbatore and Hyderabad.

The airlines currently operates out of 11 cities in India (to Colombo) which include four flights a day from Chennai; a double daily flight from Mumbai and Bengaluru, and one flight daily each from Madurai, Tiruchi, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. This apart, it flies three times a day from Delhi. It has four flights a week from Coimbatore and six flights a week from Hyderabad. From Kolkata it has three flights a week to Colombo. According to V Ravindran, Regional Manager – India & Bangladesh, SriLankan Airlines Ltd, operational ramp up is expected once fleet expansion happens by August.

“We are looking to start operations from Ahmedabad and Calicut as the new aircraft, an Airbus, is added to our fleet. This should happen by end of 2020. This apart we will gradually increase flight frequencies from existing destinations like Kolkata, Hyderabad and Coimbatore as stability in operations (from new Indian cities) happen,” he told BusinessLine.

SriLankan Airlines has already placed orders for two Airbuses, a wide-bodied A-331 that will be used for longer routes (above 4 hours of flying time) and a narrow bodied A-320 for shorter routes (less than 4 hours). The latter will primarily help service operations from India. Its present fleet strength stands at 26.

Sri Lanka which had emerged as one of the go-to destinations for Indians in recent times suffered a set-back with the Easter bombings earlier in 2019. However, there has now been a pick-up of tourist flow from the sub-continent. Obviously, this has helped the airlines explore expansion of operations here.

Plans to reduce losses

Nearly, 20 per cent of SriLankan Airlines’ revenues come from Indian operations; with Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai (together) accounting for approximately 70 per cent of its revenues. According to Ravindran, operations here are still not profitable. This despite the fact, that flights have a near 85-95 seat occupancy ratio. Different factors like cost structures and increasing competition has some impact towards profitablity. However, plans are afoot to reduce losses.

“Some of our routes are profitable. And some are not. We are continuously working on our cost structure to improve profitability. We are also looking at more point-to-point sales,” he said.

Published on January 24, 2020

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