Focus now on regional growth

SriLankan resumes long haul expansion with Melbourne

A Monitor Report 01 Oct, 2017  |    -      +
COLOMBO : SriLankan Airlines is resuming long haul expansion on October 29, with the launch of a daily service to Melbourne in Australia.

Colombo-Melbourne will become SriLankan's second long-haul route (over nine hours) after Colombo-London Heathrow, the airline's only surviving European route following a major restructuring in 2016.

The airline dropped Frankfurt and Paris in fourth quarter of 2016 and cancelled an order for A350s which were initially intended for European expansion.

Melbourne is an exception in a new short-haul focussed network strategy, and will not be followed by any other new long-haul destinations.

Over the past year SriLankan has been focussing on growing regional routes within Asia as part of a new strategy aimed at improving profitability and making the airline attractive to potential investors.

SriLankan has been highly unprofitable for nearly a decade, accumulating losses of more than US$1 billion since its last profit in the fiscal year ending March-2008.

Suren Ratwatte, CEO, SriLankan told the media on the sidelines of the August 1 CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit that the airline is "very much focused on being a regional carrier. Other than London, China, Japan and Australia, we don't intend to spread our wings out much further than that."

SriLankan intends to focus expansion mainly on regional routes within Asia. The airline currently has 22 short-haul international routes (less than four hours), those being 19 within South Asia and three to Southeast Asia.

Chennai, Male, Bangkok and Singapore are its largest short haul routes based both on frequencies and seat capacity. Chennai is currently served with 32 weekly flights, Male with 28 weekly flights, and Bangkok and Singapore with 21 weekly frequencies each.

Captain Ratwatte pointed out that SriLankan has done well with three daily flights in the Bangkok and Singapore markets, and aims to upgrade other regional destinations to three daily flights.

SriLankan now has four destinations that are served with two daily frequencies - Bangalore, Kochi, Tiruchirappalli and Kuala Lumpur. All of these could potentially support a third frequency.

Captain Ratwatte said some of SriLankan's smaller regional routes may also be upgraded to two daily flights.

SriLankan currently has 11 weekly flights to Delhi, and seven weekly flights to five short haul destinations - Dhaka, Karachi, Madurai, Mumbai and Trivandrum. SriLankan recently announced the introduction of a second daily flight on the Colombo-Mumbai route from October 29 and an increase to 13 weekly flights on Colombo-Delhi from December 1.

SriLankan's other eight short haul international destinations are served less than daily. Some of these could potentially be upgraded to daily as the airline aims to add frequencies across its regional international network.

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