SriLankan Airlines mulls double daily flights, flying to more cities in India

Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram are nine cities to which SriLankan Airlines operates flights daily.

Updated - August 22, 2023 08:56 am IST

Published - August 22, 2023 07:58 am IST - HYDERABAD

SriLankan Airlines CEO Richard Nuttall during an interaction in Hyderabad on Monday.

SriLankan Airlines CEO Richard Nuttall during an interaction in Hyderabad on Monday. | Photo Credit: G. Ramakrishna

Sri Lanka’s national air carrier SriLankan Airlines is pursuing a two-pronged strategy of increasing frequency to key cities in India and flying to 3 to 4 additional destinations, including Ahmedabad within the next one year.

“First, the plan is to increase frequency... double daily helps customers. With [enhanced] frequency you can generate more traffic,” CEO Richard Nuttall said, seeking to highlight potential in the backdrop of economic growth of India, rise in spending power as well as number of people who can afford to travel. Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram are nine cities to which SriLankan Airlines operates flights with Chennai alone connected by three flights daily.

“All major cities should be double daily. That should help grow traffic coming to Sri Lanka as also beyond, particularly to Australia, Thailand, China and Japan,” he said during an interaction here on Monday. Hyderabad is among the cities to which frequency increase is under consideration. From existing six flights a week to Hyderabad “we should be trying to get towards double daily... need to be increasing [flights to] Hyderabad,” Mr. Nuttall said.

Figuring in SriLankan Airlines plans are also connections to a few more cities. “Three to four cities are on the radar. Probably, the obvious one will be Ahmedabad.. in 12 months,” he said, adding the airlines would like to launch earlier depending on how soon more aircraft augment the fleet. Coimbatore, Kolkata and Visakhapatnam are likely to be other cities to which the carrier will be flying.

The number of tourists annually from India to Sri Lanka had declined from about 2.5 million following COVID and other factors subsequently. It is expected to be 1.5 million this year, he said. India is already back to number one in terms of tourist arrivals. It was 40,000 to 45,000 a month prior to COVID, and hovers around 25,000 at present. In the medium term, this should touch 1,00,000, he said, pointing out the airlines was the first to operate 100 flights a week to India, a number that is down to about 90 now. Over the next couple of years, the plan is to make it 200 flights a week, Mr. Nuttall said.

Besides getting more aircraft, much of the plan would depend on the future course and ownership of the airlines as it is among seven State-owned enterprises likely to be privatised. “The government is looking at whether we should be privatised or not. They don’t want to take big decisions [as] somebody [who] wants to buy might want to have a say in what the model is going forward,” he said, adding the plan is to have a fleet of 35 to 40 aircraft in 4 to 5 years. By mid-2024, the plan is enhance the fleet from the existing 23 to the pre-COVID level of 27 aircraft.

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