Sri Lanka’s national carrier and a member of the oneworld alliance, SriLankan Airlines has become the foreign airline with the largest network in India, one of the world’s largest travel markets, expanding to cover 11 cities with the addition of four more destinations in October/November 2016 – Kolkata, Madurai, Bodh Gaya and Varanasi.
With this move, SriLankan has surpass 100 flights per week to India, when it adds 19 more flights. This has made SriLankan the 5th largest foreign carrier operating to India in terms of both number of flights and total seat capacity, with 107 flights per week.
This is a significant increase from the current 88 flights to seven destinations – New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Trichy, Trivandrum, Bangalore and Kochi. Chennai will be served by 35 flights per week (05 daily), Mumbai 07, New Delhi 07, Kolkata 03, Bangalore 11, Kochi 14, Varanasi / Bodh Gaya 02, Trichy 14, Trivandrum 07 and Madurai 07. Latest Services that has been launched to Kolkata and Madurai on 30th October, and Varanasi / Bodh Gaya on 2nd November.
The expansion is a clear signal of the recent strategic shift by Sri Lanka’s national carrier to heighten its focus on its network in South Asia, the Middle East and the Far East. The airline has been rapidly modernizing its all-Airbus fleet with the addition of brand new wide body A330-300 aircraft and is to take delivery of five ultramodern narrow body A320neo and A321neo aircraft in 2017.
India’s global travelers have the convenience of connecting to onwards flights in Colombo to SriLankan’s global network covering 100 cities in 47 countries. On the way, they can enjoy SriLankan’s modern fleet and a service which provides passengers with modern cabin comforts, latest entertainment systems, excellent in-flight cuisine, and the award winning service of the Airline’s cabin crew who portrays on board the inherent Sri Lankan warmth and hospitality.
Sri Lanka has been a much sought after destination among the Indian travelers. While the island’s business and MICE options are becoming increasingly popular among the Indian corporate travelers, the legendary cultural ties between the two countries translate to a noticeable influx of pilgrims visiting to pay homage to a range of cultural and historic sites.
A total of 278,017 Indians visited Sri Lanka in 2015, making India the largest tourism generating market to Sri Lanka. That number has increased by 14% year on year in the first nine months of 2016 with 252,165 Indian visitors, according to statistics of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.
The two South Asian neighbours have had strong air links for nearly 70 years. Mumbai and Chennai have been two routes that SriLankan has been serving since its inception in 1979. Prior to this, its predecessor Air Ceylon had regular flights from as far back as 1947. The air link between Chennai and Colombo will celebrate 70 years in December 2017 with the first service having been a four times a week Colombo-Jaffna-Chennai route which began on 10th December 1947.
As a member of the oneworld global airline alliance, SriLankan will for the first time connect the cities of Madurai, Bodh Gaya and Varanasi to oneworld’s worldwide network of more than 1,000 destinations in 160 countries. With SriLankan’s induction to the alliance in 2014, the Airline added Tiruchirappali to the oneworld route network. SriLankan Airlines is already part of the oneworld’s special fare programme- the Subcontinent Pass, which allows passengers to experience the vibrancy and excitement of South Asia, which includes the cities; Bangalore and Mumbai.