Aims to connect with more Indian tier II cities; increase total fleet numbers
With its extensive connectivity strength and uber-luxurious inflight services, SriLankan Airlines has been the market leader facilitating a large number of travellers into Sri Lanka as well as to the countries, beyond. Owing to recent mayhem that shook the ongoing traffic with Sri Lanka, the airline is now bolstering the connectivity with India, one its prime inbound markets
Post the recent visit of the Sri Lankan Tourism Minister to India, propagating the fast-gripping normalcy touching the Sri Lankan soil after the terror that shook the entire world, the national carrier of Sri Lanka is now getting involved to enhance the two-way traffic between India and Sri Lanka. In order to invite more numbers from the India market, SriLankan Airlines recently announced the addition of new frequencies between Delhi and Colombo. A total of 18 flights a week will be operating between New Delhi and the Sri Lankan capital city from July 4, 2019, leading to a total of 117 operational frequencies between the two nations, at the moment. “Post the attack, the impact of our company’s business went down with the destination’s tourism of around 30 per cent drop in tourist arrivals. When we looked into our financials, we noticed the negative impact of around USD 100 million. Since then, we have been working with the authorities, conducting targeted promotional campaigns that have helped us revive a lot. From the India market, our cabin factors have been steady with around 85 per cent for the last two to three months although the yields are still under pressure, considering the competitive market,” informs Vipula Gunatilleka, Chief Executive Officer of SriLankan Airlines.
According to the official statement, India is one of the top three tourism generating markets for Sri Lanka with north India being one of the biggest growth markets. Out of the total business revenue of the airlines, around 25 per cent of the slice is from India. “The latest connectivity enhancement comes into effect as a result of the consistent growth in traffic flow from north India. Within a span of four years from 2015 to 2019, the airline has increased frequencies from daily flights to double daily flights, leading to this addition,” says Gunatilleka. “Expansion into India is always on cards. We always consider India as our best-supporting country. After this third frequency flight, we expect more point-to-point traffic and leisure business from India, mainly New Delhi,” shares Joshua Bustos, SriLankan’s newly-appointed Chief Commercial Officer who continues saying, “In order to regain the dipped business, we are going to rebrand SriLankan along adding the new offerings that we plan on introducing in the market. SriLankan is already an established brand in the market and it is only about a matter of time, for repackaging our products.”
SriLankan Airlines is planning to launch new flights to the Indian cities Kozhikode and Ahmedabad by next year with tentatively four to five flights per week, as per their new business plan. Besides these new pipelined frequencies, the SriLankan Airline is all set to add three new aircraft to retire three Airbus 3200’s. “Our current fleet number is 27, which would be increased to 34 in the next five years with 19 narrow-bodies and 15 wide-bodies. SriLankan is also looking at a couple of African and Asian airlines to create a codeshare relation for international connectivity,” adds Gunatilleka. North India is considered to be the biggest growth markets for SriLankan Airlines, owing to the avid interest shown by travellers on the immersive aspects of Sri Lanka, which is an ideal setting for MICE travel, Gunatilleka points out that they had a big play in the MICE market in the last few years.
Bustos shares that the vast presence of SriLankan in the India market is performing well and the airlines are operating in a resilient manner in the India market. “India’s load factor has been consistent with little to no drop precisely why we are increasing the flight frequencies between the two countries. We are aiming for Indian expansion and having codeshare alliances with Indian airlines but, we would also be expanding our presence in more Indian cities to expand our network.” According to Gunatilleka, the new frequency flights were supposed to be launched earlier this year, however, the dismaying terror attacks in Sri Lanka during Easter commanded to the delay. “We have observed about 400,000 arrivals from India of which 17 per cent was for leisure tourism, 48 per cent for business and 27 per cent for Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions (MICE) activities,” he further shares.
At present, the airline operates from many Indian destinations including Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Tiruchirappalli, Trivandrum, Cochin, Madurai, Kolkata and Coimbatore besides the seasonal flights to/from Bodh Gaya and Varanasi. The expanding air connectiv