Sri Lanka eyes future as global air hub

Ajith N. Dias, chairman of SriLankan Airlines
Ajith N. Dias, chairman of SriLankan Airlines

A teardrop in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka’s unique geographic location could allow it to become a global aviation hub in the coming years.

Speaking to Travel Daily at the World Travel Market in London this week, SriLankan Airlines’ chairman, Ajith N. Dias, revealed that plans are in place to position Colombo as a major transit point for traditional “Kangaroo Route” services between London and Australia, as well as for new traffic between China and Africa.

“We’re trying to be a hub because we are very strategically located. For instance if we fly to Melbourne, the quickest way from Melbourne to London is via Colombo. We are looking to do something serious there,” Dias revealed.

And it’s not only the Kangaroo Route that SriLankan is targeting, but also traffic between London and Southeast Asia.

“From Kuala Lumpur, there’s a lot of traffic that goes to London via Colombo. The reason is that there’s a big population there. So they go to London and on the way back the stop for two days in Colombo. That’s good business,” he added.

Similar routes could connect passengers to Singapore and Jakarta, two of SriLankan’s other Southeast Asian destinations. And the airline is also aiming to pick up business between China and Africa. SriLankan already operates flights to five Chinese cities, including Hong Kong, and it is also now seeking to extend its Seychelles services to destinations on the African continent.

SriLankan's Airbus A330s are the backbone of its long-haul fleet
SriLankan’s Airbus A330s are the backbone of its long-haul fleet

“We strongly believe that the next frontier is Africa. That’s where a lot of Chinese are, so we can take them from China to Colombo and onto Africa,” Dias commented.

Other new destinations under consideration include Yangon and Hyderabad, while SriLankan will also become the first international airline to fly to Gan Airport in the Maldives. Flights to the former British military base in the south of the archipelago are due to launch next month, and Dias claimed that SriLankan has now become the “unofficial carrier of the Maldives”.

“We have four flights a day there and from December we’ll fly to Gan. There are lots of big resorts down there,” he explained. “We get a lot of tourists from Sri Lanka to the Maldives. They either stopover in Colombo for a while or they connect immediately to the Maldives.”

And with SriLankan’s hub strategy coinciding with the development of a new terminal at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport, more passengers could choose to stopover in Sri Lanka in the coming years.

“We are very much at the hub of things – that’s our future,” Dias concluded.

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