Kahini Chakraborty – Colombo
SriLankan Airlines, which became the newest member to join the oneworld alliance today, has devised a five-year expansion strategy focusing around modernisation of services and fleet expansion. For the same, the airline has received a capital infusion of US$ 500 million from the Sri Lankan government. The airline has received the first two tranches of the capital last year and is expecting to get the third tranche this year and the remaining tranches in the next couple of years. The airline is working towards attracting more number of tourists to the destination, in order to achieve the government’s target of attracting 2.5 million travellers by 2015.
Elaborating about its expansion plans in India, Kapila Chandrasena, director and CEO, SriLankan Airlines said, “As part of our five year strategy, India is an important market for us. We are looking at tapping Tier II cities – Hyderabad, Calicut and south India markets. Apart from this, we are also considering to increase our frequencies on our current sectors, which would be either introducing double or three daily flights from our Delhi and Mumbai sectors.” The subsidiary airline MihinLanka also serves destinations like Bodhgaya and Varanasi which depends on the seasonality of travellers. The signing ceremony between SriLanlan Airlines and oneworld took place at Hambantota’s Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.
Nishantha Wickremasig, chairman, SriLanka Airlines said, “Joining oneworld is one of the most significant developments to date for SriLankan Airlines. The alliance will put Sri Lanka more firmly on the global aviation map and improve connectivity which is vital for trade and tourism. “Presently the airline flies from seven cities in India – Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Kochi, Mumbai, Thiruvanthapuram, Tiruchchirappalli. When asked about the reason behind choosing to join oneworld alliance and the growth expected, he added, “We currently have 72 flights a week from various destinations that we serve from India. We want to strengthen our routes and our strategy is to leverage on the. oneworld alliance partnership. The alliance has given us the breadth for. expansion in not only India but also abroad. The oneworld alliance suited us and we studied that there was a vacuum in the Indian subcontinent, Maldives and Southeast Asia where we have strong networks, hence this has worked for us.” In 2012 the airline had 14 aircraft and now has 22 aircraft, a 30-40 percent increase in capacity growth. In terms of fleet expansion, the airline is set to receive orders for 13 aircraft. Out of this six, A330 will be inducted by October 2014. While seven A350-900 is expected to be delivered by the second quarter of 2015.
“We enjoy a load factor of 80-85per cent from our India sector,” he mentioned. The A330’s and A350’s will be given on lease operating model and the airline is also considering to explore other options. When asked about the revenue growth seen last year, Chandrasena said, “Revenue on pan India basis last year was five per cent deficient but expenses were kept as per the budget.” The airline carried 4.7 million passengers last year between its Colombo base and 32 destination in 20 countries across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It also has code share agreements with oneworld partner Malaysia Airlines and Finnair and S7.