SriLankan Airlines suspends passenger flights

SriLankan Airlines A330

SriLankan Airlines suspends passenger flights from April 8th to April 21st due to coronavirus which has led governments to impose travel bans and restrictions.

The national carrier of Sri Lanka, initially had 95% of its Airbus strong fleet grounded. It was one of the few national carriers to have been operating in South Asia as most of the airlines have suspended operations and grounded their fleet.

Suspension of operation

SriLankan Airlines suspends passenger flights from April 8th to April 21st due to the coronavirus outbreak which has forced countries to impose lockdowns and travel restrictions. It has said it will continue to operate repatriation of Sri Lankan citizens who are stuck abroad. It also added it would continue cargo operations and will operate special flights if required.

SriLankan Airlines A330-300 4R-ALM
SriLankan Airlines will suspend operations from 8th April to 21st April with the exception of cargo and rescue flights. Photo: Aerowanderer

Recently the Civil Aviation authority of Sri Lanka had imposed restrictions preventing inbound passengers. In a statement it had said

” According to instructions received from Sri Lanka Health Authorities all international Airports in Sri Lanka will be closed for the operation of inward international commercial passenger flights (i.e arrivals) with effect from 0400hrs on 19th March 2020 (local time in Sri Lanka) until 2359hrs on 07th April 2020 (local time in Sri Lanka)”.

Statement by Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka based on instructions from the Sri Lanka Health Authorities

SriLankan Airlines has released a schedule in which it will be operating to only a handful of destinations from 31st March to the 7th of April. It will only be operating to Tokyo-Narita, London-Heathrow and Melbourne. It has emphasised that the schedule is subject to change due to the coronavirus outbreak and has told its passengers to check for latest updates and schedule.

Financial position

SriLankan Airlines is adopting cost saving measures to keep the airline running. One of the measures are a mandatory salary cuts from 2.5% to 25% for a period of three months along with freezing all salary increments.

“The management of SriLankan Airlines is taking all endeavors to protect and safeguard its staff members and their employment with the total confidence that the Airline will collectively overcome these challenges, with the strength of the Airline’s employees”.

Sri Lankan Airlines on its employees
SriLankan Airlines has 7xA330-300 and 4XA330-200 in their Airbus strong fleet. Photo: Aerowanderer

The airline has also taken measures such as by negotiating deferred payment plans and deductions with Airline’s key suppliers in order to preserve the airline’s liquidity. The airline has funds to operate for the next 3 to 4 months. Much like the other airlines, SriLankan Airlines has been hit mainly due to suspension of its flight services as a result of travel bans and restrictions such as the one imposed in India.

India’s impact on Sri Lankan Airlines

India is one of Sri Lanka’s most important destinations. It operates around 121 flights per week from New Delhi, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Kochi, Chennai, Banglore, Hyderabad, Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, Kolkata, Trivandrum and seasonal flights to Gaya and Varanasi.

India had imposed travel ban on international operation on March 23rd and later imposed a blanket ban on commercial air travel in the country.

This has directly impacted SriLankan Airlines on financial terms as India contributes to a heavy chunk of passenger traffic. This is evident as Sri Lankan uses its wide body A330 aircraft on short routes such as to Chennai.

The airline also operated a series of repatriation flight to India to bring back stranded Sri Lankans which amounted to a staggering 829 citizens.

SriLankan Airlines has reported a loss of $130 million for the financial year ending this March 2020. It has also requested the government for cash infusion of around $300 million.

Cargo and relief flights

SriLankan Airlines continues to operate cargo and relief flights. Like other airlines it has been using its passenger aircraft for Cargo services. It had recently bought back 829 Sri Lankan pilgrims from India.

SriLankan Airlines also operated from Shanghai carrying donations made by the Sri Lankan community in China through consulate general of Sri Lanka in Guangzhou and Shanghai. It had brought goggles, protective equipment, nebulisers, glucometers and thermometers.

It had also said inspite of commercial travel being suspend it would operate cargo and relief flights.

Conclusion

SriLankan Airlines, much like other airlines is facing aviations worst crisis. It hard to predict which airlines will come out better or worse given how quick circumstances change. Sri Lankan Airlines which is owned by the government should have the backing of it during a crisis such as this and we hope it comes out much stronger than before.

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