Not withstanding the introduction of the passenger ferry service between Tuticorin and Colombo, Sri Lankan Airlines is set to increase the frequency of its service on the Colombo-Tiruchi-Colombo sector from July 4.
Another major operator on the sector, Mihin Lanka, a low cost carrier, is also said to plan to increase its frequency on the same sector.
A cross section of air travel agents and air operators feel that the introduction of ferry service is not likely to impact on the air passenger traffic on the Tiruchi-Colombo sector, which has been attracting consistent demand.
Sri Lankan Airlines, which has long been operating on the sector, will increase its frequency on the service to 13 a week to make it twice-daily , except on Sundays, Ahmed Mazahim, Area Manager, Sri Lankan Airlines, Tiruchi, told The Hindu on Thursday. The airline currently operates 10 flights a week.
According to sources, the average load factor on the flights in the sector hovers around 80 per cent, making it one of the profitable routes for airlines.
Most travel agents feel that the ferry service may at best wean away a small section of traders, regularly travelling on the sector, as they are allowed a baggage allowance of up to 100 kg a trip, having only a negligible impact.
Travel agents in the city taking bookings for the ferry mostly target tourists as not many cruises are operated in the southern part of India. “We do not expect any major impact on the business for airlines operating on the Tiruchi-Colombo sector, though the ferry service could attract leisure travellers enamoured by the cruise experience,” observes R.Venkatachalam, core committee member, Travel Agents Association of India, South Tamil Nadu Chapter.
Some of the travel agents and air operators observe that not many travellers from the central districts would prefer to travel up to Tuticorin and then take the 14-hour voyage to Colombo from there.