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Foreign Affairs

Sri Lankan Airlines Bullish On India; Provides Seamless Connectivity to Australia and Maldives

Turning its focus on the region and its huge potential, Sri Lankan Airlines  is very bullish on the Indian market. Not only Sri Lanka has become a favourite destination for Indians, Colombo is also becoming a big hub to connect Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai with Asian nations with efficient and effective strives and network by Sri Lankan airlines.

Member of the OneWorld alliance, Sri Lankan airlines is giving a big push to the new wave of tourism into Sri Lanka and has decided to go all out to woo the Indian consumers. It has launched the Delhi-Sydney flight via Colombo and is also connecting cities like Melbourne and Perth in Australia with Delhi  and Mumbai.

It has lined up expansion plans to  top the huge potential of the Indian market especially the cities in Northern India. Till now, Sri Lankan had focussed mainly on South India but now wants to turn its attention to cities in North India.

Sri Lankan Airlines North India region Manager, Chinthaka Weerasinghe is very bullish about charting a new course with the Indian customer and with his needs in mind. Currently operating from 14 destinations in India with 125 flights per week, the airline is not resting on its laurels and has lined up massive expansion plans to connect Indians to destinations like Male and Gan Island in Maldives, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, Bangkok and Indonesia and China. “We are seeking to bring destinations in Asian region closer to India and link them with our vast network. Colombo will be our hub  which will provide fast and efficient connectivity to the customers,” he remarked.

As Sri Lanka has one of the highest expatriates community living in Australian cities of Mebourne and Sydney, it is providing a direct link from Colombo to Melbourne and other cities in Australia. Now it has extended that link to India by starting the New Delhi-Melbourne flight. The Srilankan Airlines is seeking to tap the key markets of Delhi, Mumbai, Gujarat and Punjab for the New Delhi-Australian circuit. `We have come up with a schedule of double daily flights from Colombo with transit time of less than one and half hours. The total flight time from Delhi to Melbourne would be around 15 hours which is unique. Similarly, connectivity would also be provided on the same basis from New Delhi to Sydney,’’ Mr. Weerasinghe said.

In order to tap the huge potential of markets in Punjab and Gujrat, Srilankan Airlines has tied up with Vistara and some other local carriers to give special fares so that it could be coupled with Delhi Melbourne flight. And the response has been overwhelming.

The airline has also tied up with OneWorld alliance partners to give auto price rates through Sydney and other domestic points in Australia and New Zealand to make the route lucrative for passengers. And the bonanza does not end with a tight flight schedule, the pricing is also very competitive as the New Delhi-Melbourne route price is coming to an attractive Rs. 43,000 all inclusive. The price for the Delhi-Sydney flight is also the same. The response has been amazing as this route is selling like hot cake in the North India market.

Offering a whole compact package for the passengers, there is the attractive baggage policy with the economy class being allowed 30 Kg, Business Class 40 Kgs and 50 Kgs allowance for the students

Mr. Weerasinghe said in addition to this, the focus would also be on regional routes at Asia and South Asia. China is a big market for us and Srilankan Airlines has good connections to Bangkok, Indonesia.“We are looking at consolidation in India with a larger focus to get Indian tourists on our national airlines. Tourism has been a big attraction with a double digit growth along with wedding, leisure and MICE.

Mr. Weerasinghe said Sri Landkan Airlines has been operating for the longest time in India since 1979 from Bombay and Madras at that time. It commenced its Delhi operations from 1993 and now presently are in 14 destinations in India. “We are celebrating 25 years of operations from Delhi next year which speaks volumes about our services and commitment to the Indian market. We have 125 flights per week from India which we plan to increase to 134 flights in the coming months,’ he added.

He said Srilankan Airlines has over 28 frequencies given in the bilateral agreements and we are one of those airlines which has utilised these most making us the number one career in terms of points of operations. In terms of frequencies, we stand around third. On the cards is a double daily flight to Mumbai. The Sri Lankan airlines gives a lot of importance to the Indian market which is indicated in the number of tourist arrivals from India into Sri Lanka.

Last year nearly 3.75 lakh Indian tourists visited Sri Lanka making it the number of inbound tourist country. This year it is expected that this number will cross the 400,000 market. Over the years, the airline has mainly focused on the South Indian market but now has turned its focus on the Northern region sensing its huge potential. Plans are already afoot to open three new stations in India – Hyderabad, Vishakhapatnam and Coimbatore. Double daily flights from Delhi and Mumbai are now operated. The airlines has three flights from Kolkata which will soon be increased to four.

In addition to this, there is the chartered flights traffic to to Bodh gaya and Varanasi to cater to pilgrim traffic. After US, United Kingdom and Bangladesh, Sri Lanka ranks fourth in terms of tourist arrivals into India. The focus in the North Indian market is on leisure traffic and MICE. “We are seeking to build relationships with stakeholders and tour operators.

Talking about the potential of the Maldives market, where Srilankan Airlines has a strong presence, Mr. Weerasinghe said the airline is quite established for the Maldives market in South India and Mumbai. In Delhi, there were initial hiccups due to single flight but now that has changed and we have a second flight operating from Delhi giving more choice and convenience to the tourists. Now Delhi is properly connected with Male and tourists can now reach their destinations in Maldives by evening instead of spending one night in Male. This brings down the tour expenses and also gives convenience to the tourist to plan their trip.

Srilankan Airlines is sure that the double daily flight from Delhi will give them more numbers ffor the Maldives market. The connectivity from the airline hub of Colombo is seamless as now five flights operate to Male. “We are also looking at guest houses and hotels to increase our volumes. Also last year, we were first operator to operate to Gan Island in Maldives. We have four flights a week, and we hope to increase it further. We need to give more options of connectivity to tourists going to Gan island to various resorts of Island destinations from there. We need to work with the industry, government and the resorts in Gan Island to increase the frequency of fights. We could look at sea plane services which will reduce the transit time Male to various destinations through Gan island,” he remarked.

Similarly, with Colombo emerging as a major hub, Srilankan has been able to provide options to the Indian travellers. Now Indian tourist to go to Seyshells seamlessly and the pricing is also very competitive. The Syeshells route is doing fairly well in terms of traffic from India.

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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