SriLankan Airlines is focusing its efforts on Asia, with China and the Far East the focal point for its expansion.
Speaking to Travel Daily at the ITB Asia trade show in Singapore yesterday (17 October 2012), the airline’s Head of Worldwide Sales, Lal Perera, said SriLankan plans to offer direct flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, as well as opening a new routes to Chengdu and Seoul. Currently the Colombo-based carrier operates all its Chinese routes via Bangkok.
“Bangkok is our short-term plan but our main objective is to operate direct (from China) to Colombo,” Perera said.
While no timescale has been placed on the de-linking of services from the Thai capital, Perera added that he planned to connect all Chinese routes to the Maldives, offering one-stop connections for Chinese tourists to the increasingly popular Indian Ocean island destination.
“Our main concentration is to connect Colombo and the Maldives from China at the moment, with immediate connections,” he said.
Catering for the Chinese market, SriLankan offers Chinese food, movies and at least one Chinese-speaking crew member on all its flights to and from the country, and Perera said the services are now becoming very popular with the Chinese market.
“We’re currently running around 85% load factors (on our Chinese routes) and about 90% of these are Chinese,” he revealed.
Once the Chinese flights are de-linked from Bangkok, SriLankan also plans to add a new service connecting Colombo with Hong Kong and Seoul, and Perera also revealed that the airline is considering launching Chengdu as its fourth destination in mainland China. Services to the Sichuan state capital are also likely to operate via Bangkok in the initial stage.
Meanwhile SriLankan’s sister airline, Mihin Lanka, is planning to launch flights to Manila, catering for the high volume of traffic between the Philippines and the Middle East.