Interview with Vipula Gunatilleka, CEO of SriLankan Airlines

SriLankan Airlines to start four new flights per week to Delhi
2019-07-09
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/ New Delhi
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There has been a huge splurge in Indian tourists visiting Sri Lanka, with business, wedding and spiritual tourism being the major attractants. In the wake of this growing demand for air connectivity, the  SriLankan Airlines has launched four new flights per week between the Indian capital New Delhi and the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, from July 4, 2019, resulting in 18 operational flights per week. 

In a press conference organised in the Taj Palace hotel of Delhi, SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier of Sri Lanka, officially announced the addition of new frequencies between Delhi and Colombo.  A total of 18 flights a week will be operating between New Delhi and the Sri Lankan capital from July 4, 2019, leading to 117 operational frequencies, at the moment, between the two nations.

The first flight of the newly introduced third frequency departs the Indian capital at 0515 hrs to arrive in Colombo at 0845 hrs.

According to SriLankan Airlines, India is one of the top three tourism generating markets for Sri Lanka with north India being one of the biggest growth markets. Out of the total business revenue of the airlines, about 25 pc from India. “The latest connectivity enhancement comes into effect as a result of the consistent growth in traffic flow from north India. Within a span of four years from 2015 to 2019, the airline has increased frequencies from daily flights to double daily flights, leading to this addition”, says Vipula Gunatilleka, the chief executive officer of SriLankan Airlines.

Speaking to India Outbound  Dimuthu Tennakoon, the head of worldwide sales and distribution of SriLankan Airlines says, “Expansion into India is always on cards. We always consider India as our best-supporting country. After this third frequency flight, we expect more point-to-point traffic and leisure business from India, mainly New Delhi.”

At present, the airline operates from many Indian destinations including Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Tiruchirappalli, Trivandrum, Cochin, Madurai, Kolkata, and Coimbatore besides the seasonal flights to/from Bodh Gaya, and Varanasi.

The expanding air connectivity between the two nations has given a special boost to the business tourism in Sri Lanka. “We have observed about 400,000 arrivals from India of which 17 pc was for leisure tourism, 48 pc for business and 27 pc for Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions (MICE) activities.” shares Tennakoon.

According to SriLankan Airlines, the new frequency flights were supposed to be launched earlier this year, however, the horrifying terror attacks in Sri Lanka during Easter led to the delay.

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“There has been a consistent growth in traffic flow from North India in Sri Lanka,” says Vipula Gunatilleka, CEO of Srilankan Airlines| PC: Deepankar Shukla

Speaking to India Outbound Dimuthu Tennakoon, the head of worldwide sales and distribution of SriLankan Airlines says, “Expansion into India is always on cards. We always consider India as our best-supporting country. After this third frequency flight, we expect more point-to-point traffic and leisure business from India, mainly New Delhi.”

At present, the airline operates in many Indian destinations including Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Tiruchirappalli, Trivandrum, Cochin, Madurai, Kolkata, and Coimbatore besides the seasonal flights to/from Bodh Gaya, and Varanasi.

The expanding air connectivity between the two nations has given a special boost to the business tourism in Sri Lanka. “We have observed about 400,000 arrivals from India out of which 17 pc was for leisure tourism, 48 pc for business and 27 pc for Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions (MICE) activities,” shares Tennakoon with India Outbound.

According to SriLankan Airlines, the new frequency flights were supposed to be launched earlier this year, however, the horrifying terror attacks in Sri Lanka during Easter led to the delay.

Growing fascination towards the Island nation

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Austin Fernando ( right), Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India was also present during the launch besides Subhash Goyal (left), from STIC Travels| PC: Deepankar Shukla

According to Chinthaka Weerasinghe, the manager of SriLankan Airlines in north India, lately, there has been a big splurge in the Indian tourists taking to this island nation for spiritual tourism, pre-wedding shoots and wedding tourism being a major attractant. Speaking to India Outbound Gunatilleka says“Owing to the cultural similarities, a lot of tourists from south India are being drawn to Sri Lanka. Majority of them belong to the upper middle class. We are glad that even after the terror attacks, many Indian couples chose the southern beaches of Sri Lanka for their pre-wedding shoots and getting hitched. ”

SriLankan Airlines also gives access to travellers from Delhi to several international destinations like Jakarta, Gan Island, Dhaka, Maldives, Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur via Colombo, adding to the convenience.
Similarly, the airlines’ connectivity to Melbourne and their collaboration with domestic carriers has also played a significant role in attracting tourists from popular Tier—II Indian cities such as Chandigarh and Amritsar. Providing a short connectivity time of about one hour, SriLankan Airlines has facilitated the largest source market to Melbourne- the Punjab region.

Future connectivities

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“We expect more point to point traffic from India after this third frequency flight. We want more leisure travellers.”, said Tennakoon| PC: Deepankar Shukla

SriLankan Airlines is planning to launch new flights to the Indian cities Kozhikode and Ahmedabad by next year, as per their new business plan.

Besides these new pipelined frequencies, the SriLankan Airline is all set to add three new aircraft to retire three Airbus 3200’s.

“This will give us the flexibility to operate more in India besides South-East Asia and the Middle East,” says Gunatilleka in an exclusive interview with India Outbound.

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