The Government has approved the Russian flag carrier – Aeroflot to operate in Sri Lanka, increasing the number of registered airlines to nearly 30.
“We issued approval for Aeroflot on Monday and we are expecting the first flight to arrive on 10 October,” Civil Aviation Authority Chairman Upul Dharmadasa told the Daily FT.
He said the airline will operate to Colombo initially with two services per week on Friday and Monday.
The Chairman also said they were open for business now and are exploring opportunities to expand the number of airlines operating in Colombo.
“We are negotiating with Cathay Pacific and Kuwait airlines to resume services to Colombo again soon,” he said.
Noting that at present around 28 airlines are registered with the CAA including 17 scheduled passenger carriers, he said more likely to start services to Colombo very soon.
Dharmadasa also revealed they will hold discussions with Philippine Airlines officials this week to crack a deal to commence operations to Colombo.
“Philippine Airlines is a very lucrative opportunity to attract a lot of US tourists or passengers,” he added.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, only eight international airlines and 15 charter carriers were operating into Sri Lanka. Thereafter, air traffic to Sri Lanka rose sharply with multiple international airlines operating into Colombo. Post-pandemic a total of 37 international airlines operated into Sri Lanka.
However, given the ongoing economic crisis, several airlines were contemplating suspending their operations in Sri Lanka, as no credible solution was in sight to resolve the jet fuel shortage and the fund repatriation issues faced by the country’s aviation industry.
The situation compelled several international airlines including the national carrier – SriLankan Airlines to have utilised Trivandrum, Chennai, and Kochi airports in South India as a refuelling base before continuing to Sri Lanka. The fuel shortage also prompted airlines to cut down on capacity to Colombo.
The jet fuel shortage also threatened the triple-hit tourism industry’s recovery, which depends largely on-air connectivity.
When asked if the Government can assure uninterrupted supply he said, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera announced that the State-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation has entered into a one-year supply agreement to secure jet fuel.
“Every operating airline is equally concerned about the guarantee Sri Lankan authorities could provide to assure uninterrupted fuel supply for their operations. We have been informed by the CPC that they have sufficient jet fuel at present and they will provide continuous supply,” he added.
The country’s main international airport, Bandaranaike International Airport has the capacity for 7.8 million litres of Jet-A1 fuel. However, the airport has managed to secure an average of just 250,000 litres per day.