Sri Lankan exits skywards says Emirates

COLOMBO - SriLankan Airlines will be making an exit from Skywards, the loyalty programme for frequent fliers of Emirates and SriLankan Airlines, according Skywards’ February newsletter.

“The existing management agreement between Emirates and SriLankan Airlines expires on March 31, 2008, when the management control of SriLankan Airlines will revert to the Government of Sri Lanka. The termination of this arrangement will result in SriLankan Airlines ceasing to be part of the Skywards programme,” the newsletter says.

Chandana Desilva, SriLankan Airline’s head of corporate communication, also confirm this when contacted by TNS. “With the management contract between the two airlines being terminated on March 31 this year, we will not be Skywards partners with Emirates,” he said.

The Emirates newsletter further urged Skywards members to remain assured that their Skywards membership will continue even beyond the termination of SriLankan’s participation in the programme.

“We can confirm that SriLankan Airlines will cease to be part of the Skywards programme when the existing management agreement between Emirates and SriLankan Airlines expires on March 31, 2008. Until that date, Skywards members can continue to earn and redeem miles on both airlines as per the existing programme rules,” said an Emirates’ spokesperson.

“Existing members will continue to be a part of the programme, post SriLankan Airline’s departure. More information about changes in the Skywards programme will be communicated to our members soon,” he further said.

Meanwhile Emirates having valued its stake in SriLankan at about $150 million is still looking out for buyers, according to Emirates’ President Tim Clark. There have been talks about the Sri Lankan government buying that stake but no decision has been arrived at as yet.

Also the Gulf carrier Qatar Airways and two Indian airlines, Kingfisher Airlines and Jet Airways, are likely contenders to pick up a stake in SriLankan Airlines. Emirates’ President Tim Clark had said that his airline is open to the idea of selling in full or part its 43.6 per cent share in the airline for an estimated fair value of $150 million.

Sri Lankan spokesperson Chandana Desilva said Qatar Airways is a strong contender among the possible Gulf airlines. But Qatar Airways’ spokesperson, Salam Al Shawa, denied the report, saying: “The Doha-based carrier is not interested in picking up a stake in the airline.”


More flights to Pakistan

Sri Lanka is looking at increasing its airline frequency to Pakistan. Daily frequencies to both Karachi and Lahore are being considered.

Currently there are three weekly flights being operated to Karachi and two to Lahore. SriLankan Airlines were compelled to cease operations to Karachi in July 2001 because of the loss of half of its fleet due to the Colombo Airport attack.

SriLankan Airlines recommenced its operations to Karachi with effect from June 2003 and presently operates three frequencies per week, an Airport and Aviation officials said.

Liberalisation of Air Services between the two countries would lead to development of not only the aviation sector, but also the tourism and industrial sectors. Sri Lanka currently enjoys a liberalised air services regime with other countries in the region notably India, Maldives, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

In keeping with the SAARC declaration both Sri Lanka and Pakistan should encourage people to people contact through the creation of an improved air transport regime and must therefore, further look towards liberalizing the air services arrangements between the two countries.

Liberalization of Air Services between the countries of the SAARC Region would also definitely enhance the develop the individuals markets and also create a much stronger bond within the region.

In order for the trade service sectors of both countries to fully reap the benefits under the Free Trade Agreement which is now finalised, a strong and vibrant air link is vital.

The need for liberalisation of the Air Services Regime between Sri Lanka and Pakistan was taken up at the bilateral discussions held during the recent State visit to Pakistan by the President of Sri Lanka.

These issues will be taken up with Pakistan Authorities during forthcoming negotiations, Aviation Ministry sources said.


Direct flights to Sri Lanka from Turky

Turkish Civil Aviation Directorate General (SHGM) has signed an agreement with the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka to start direct flights between the two countries.

Ali Ariduru, the Civil Aviation DG, visited Sri Lankan capital Colombo on February 6 and signed the deal on February 8, raising the number of countries with which Turkey has air transportation agreements to 89.

Under the agreement, Turkish Airlines (THY), Sri Lankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka Airlines will arrange flights between the two countries.

Sri Lanka Jan tourist arrivals up 0.6 pct vs yr ago

COLOMBO, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka in January crept up a better-than-expected, 0.64 percent compared with a year earlier, given an esclalation in violence on the island.

January arrivals edged up to 56,916, from 56,553 in the same month a year ago, the island state's tourist authority said.

"The visit of the spiritual leader of the Bohra community, attracted over 8,000 devotees in January," said Renton de Alwis, chairman of the state-run Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, referring to an ethnic Muslim group in Pakistan and India.

"Tourist confidence on Sri Lanka also helped us to maintain the arrivals in January."

Industry officials said the rise in January tourists arrivals was an achievement in light of heightened violence between the military and Tamil Tiger rebels after the government scraped a six-year truce in that month.

The violence claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, mostly rebels, in January alone.

Although the country's popular tourist destinations are not in the zone of conflict, sporadic bomb blasts in and around the capital Colombo pose a major threat to the tourism industry, officials said.

This year, the tourism authority aims to have 600,000 foreign visitors to Sri Lanka and a 43 percent increase in foreign earnings from tourism to $550 million, de Alwis said.

Sri Lanka failed to achieve last year's target of 600,000 tourist arrivals due to the violence.

Tourist arrivals fell 11.7 percent to 494,008 in 2007 from a year earlier, as the renewed civil war deterred potential visitors, while earnings from tourism fell 6.1 percent to $385 million in last year, compared with $410 million in 2006.

Industry officials attributed the drop to a sharp fall in arrivals between March and June, after Tamil Tiger rebels bombed an air base next to the only international airport.

Some foreign embassies also advised their nationals to avoid war-affected areas.

Nearly 70,000 people have died since 1983 and around 6,000 people since late 2006 in the country's two-decade-old civil war.

Tourism is one of the key sources of foreign exchange in the $27 billion economy, the others being garments, foreign remittances and tea.

Original Artical:-Reuters


Can Hyderabad beat colombo to become South Asia cargo hub

Hyderabad is likely to emerge as the cargo hub of Southeast Asia with the new international airport at Shamshabad, 30 km from town area, handling a bulk of express cargo and courier services from the region.

The greenfield airport, which will become operational on March 16, will have a world class cargo handling facility. The cargo handling and courier services have been planned and executed after studying similar facilities at leading international airports around the world, in Japan, the UK, the US and Malaysia.

Official say"We have asked DHL Express, who were planning to go to Sri Lanka, to come to Hyderabad. We offered them land and they accepted Hyderabad as the centre of the their Southeast Asia operations,"

Can Hyderabad beat colombo to become South Asia cargo hub?

Srilankan Airlines offers 100 flights a week to India

SriLankan Airlines is proud to become the first foreign airline to operate one hundred flights per week to India. Sri Lanka’s National Carrier reached the important milestone when it added another weekly flight to its existing services to Trichy recently.
SriLankan Airlines is extremely proud to be the first foreign carrier in history to fly one hundred times a week to India. We recognised very early the important role that India plays in this part of the world, and we have been steadily increasing the number of flights, and the cities that we serve.
Coimbatore became SriLankan’s 11th destination in India. It operates two flights a day to Chennai and Mumbai, and daily or more frequent flights to New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Trichy, Trivandrum, Kochi, and Calicut. There are four flights to Coimbatore, and three to Goa.
Manoj Gunawardena, Head of Worldwide Passenger Sales, said: “We offer Indian travellers rapid connections via Colombo to our 54 destinations in 28 countries throughout the world. Cities such as Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and London, are very popular with our Indian passengers.”
SriLankan carried 1.1 million passengers to and from India in the 2006/07 financial year, which accounted for 35% of the airline’s global traffic. The airline works very actively to bring tourists into India, promoting the country’s many tourism sites. It has formal partnerships with many tourism authorities such as the Kerala Department of Tourism.
Colombo’s geographical location at the southern tip of the Subcontinent makes it the ideal gateway to India. The excellent facilities at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport have earned it the reputation of being the finest airport in South Asia. A recent modernization programme there saw the construction of a new terminal with aerobridges, comfortable lounges, and a well-stocked duty free shopping complex that is second to none in the region.
Senaka Fernando, Regional Manager Indian Subcontinent & Maldives, said: “SriLankan is making a conscious effort to serve smaller cities in India, where travellers do not have access to international air travel as most other airlines are intent on serving the large cities.”
SriLankan is a firm favourite among Indians domiciled abroad, and provides seamless connections to travel home from cities such as New York, Houston, London, Paris, and Frankfurt where there are large Indian populations. It also serves the growing number of Indian students abroad, and is one of the largest carriers of Indian labour traffic to and from the Middle East where it serves nine cities.
The airline often provides special travel packages to Indian customers to travel overseas for business or pleasure, especially through its leisure arm SriLankan Holidays, and even throws in free nights in Colombo. With its value-for-money shopping – original name brand clothing, Ceylon tea, high class porcelainware, and exquisite gemstones - Sri Lanka is a popular destination among leisure travellers from India, which is the largest nation of origin for the island’s tourism industry.
The excellent conference facilities in Sri Lanka are also heavily patronised by Indian companies. The island offers the opportunity to take company staff overseas, while having the convenience of being only an hour’s flying from South India and three hours from New Delhi and Mumbai.
SriLankan has won many awards for its operations to India, including the Galileo Indian Express Award for Best Eastbound International Airline. Its global and regional accolades include “World’s Best Airline” in a survey of Economy Class passengers; “World’s Friendliest Cabin Staff”; first runner-up for “World’s Best Cabin Staff”; Best Airline in Central Asia four consecutive years; and Best Airline in South Asia three times

Cathay Pacific has announced it'll flight schedules.

Cathay Pacific has announced it'll flight schedules.It'll relaunch 3 weekly via Bangkok and 4 weekly via Singapore service.It will resume its passenger services to and from Colombo, with effect from 30 March 2008

CX703 HKG1835 - 2015BKK2230 - 0015+1CMB 773 247
CX711 HKG1615 - 2000BKK2130 - 2245CMB 773 x247


Cathay Pacific to resume services to Colombo

Cathay Pacific Airways announced that it will resume its passenger services to and from Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, with effect from 30 March 2008. The airline will operate a daily service using a Boeing B777-300 aircraft routed through either Bangkok or Singapore.

Three flights a week, operating as CX703, will go via Bangkok every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, departing Hong Kong at 18.35 and arriving in Colombo at 00.15 the next day. The return CX700 service departs Sri Lanka at 01.45, arriving in Hong Kong at 12.10.

On all other days of the week the flight will be routed through Singapore. CX711 departs Hong Kong at 16.15 and arrives in Sri Lanka at 22.45, while the return CX710 service departs Colombo at 00.15 on the following day and lands in Hong Kong at 12.15.

Cathay Pacific Director Corporate Development Augustus Tang said: “We are very pleased to be able to resume services to and from Colombo. Sri Lanka is an important market for both passengers and cargo and getting the destination back into our network will certainly be beneficial for the Hong Kong hub.”

Cathay Pacific suspended its operations to Colombo in April 2007 due to security concerns. The airline did a thorough audit before making the decision to resume flights and is confident that new security measures in place at Colombo airport meet the airline’s exacting safety requirements.

The news about the resumption of Colombo flights follows on the heels of a recent announcement about increased services to India. Cathay Pacific will add 10 flights a week to Delhi and six flights a week to Mumbai by 30 March. In addition, it will launch Chennai as a destination on 1 June, with four flights a week, while sister airline Dragonair will begin a daily flight to Bangalore on 1 May.

The Cathay Pacific Group as a whole will operate 53 passenger flights a week from Hong Kong to five countries on the subcontinent – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – by June 2008.


Double blow for visit visa holders

Unsuspecting Sri Lankans leaving the Colombo International Airport for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on visit visas are been ripped off by a draconian new labour regulation that requires them to pay large fees to the authorities despite holding a return ticket.

The formerly unannounced regulation that came into effect two weeks ago has caught dozens of Gulf-bound passengers unaware, and most of them were off-loaded by determined staff from the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment who are stationed at the Colombo airport.

The new regulation states that all passengers holding visit visas and bound for Gulf destinations will have to pay a refundable fee as insurance to the Bureau. Failing to do so means they will be turned away from the airport, Labour officials with the Diplomatic Mission in the UAE said.

They say this was largely due to the fact that the bulk of those leaving on visit visas, are actually job hunters who do not return to the country for a considerable period of time. These visit visa holders on landing in the UAE secure employment but must leave the country and re-enter on their sponsor’s work visa. To do this they do not have to go back to Sri Lanka. Most of them leave for neighbouring Iran and return to Dubai where their work visas are then endorsed. Employment on visit visas is a punishable offence in the Emirates.

However the regulation is also confusing since it does not state the exact fee. According to officials the fee will be charged according to the category of those leaving. For example housemaids and other low-income wage earners will be charged less while executives much more.

However, the honest traveller will also be caught up with this regulation, the officials admit, while adding that the Bureau officials will have to use their own discretion when selecting those who have to pay the fee. However another saddening issue is that the low-cost budget airline Mihin Lanka has also cashed into the misery of the travellers.

Since the regulation came into force dozens of persons booked on Mihin Lanka and who were unable to pay the fee and subsequently off-loaded at Colombo had to forfeit their tickets as well. Mihin Lanka does not refund the value of tickets if the passenger does not make it on the scheduled flight. Enraged passengers claim that the airline never informed them about this regulation and as a result they were taken unawares at the airport. They were not only forced to pay the fee, but also had to purchase a fresh ticket. A single journey ticket on Mihin Lanka, Colombo-Dubai sector costs AED 600 (SL Rs. 17,000).

A Trico International spokesperson in Dubai which handles the bulk of the ticketing for Mihin Lanka told The Sunday Times that this was most unfortunate, but said it was up to the Colombo office to give prior notice to the passengers.“If this was not been done in Colombo, then there is very little we can do over here,” he said.

Article published in Sunday times.


SriLankan Airlines expands

SriLankan Airlines is fast turning Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) into into a hub for air travel, steadily increasing the number of passengers in transit through the airport.

Three years ago, only 28% of passengers carried by SriLankan through Colombo’s BIA were in transit - a little over a quarter. The bulk of travellers were tourists visiting Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans returning from overseas.

Today, the number of transit passengers has more than doubled, and the total number of passengers carried by the airline has increased by a third. Nearly half of its traffic (46%) is now transit passengers, a number that is continuously increasing.

Peter Hill, CEO of SriLankan, said: “We at SriLankan take great pride in offering rapid connectivity to travellers through Colombo, in order to maximise convenience. We actively work towards minimising waiting periods which we know is one of the most annoying aspects of international air travel.”

The rise in transit passengers has been as steady as it has been impressive, from 28% in 2003/04 to 36% the next year, 42% in 2005/06, to the current 46%.

Transit numbers remained steady at 46% during the six-month period between April and September 2007, despite flight schedules being disrupted for several months due to a temporary night-time closure of BIA. With the airport now back to its 24-hour operation, the number is expected to increase.

Manoj Gunawardena, Head of Worldwide Passenger Sales, said: “We offer passengers a one-stop option for travel between regions as far apart as Europe and the Far East. Our flight arrival and departure banks are constantly being improved to reduce long transit times. However BIA is perhaps the best airport in the region to spend time if a passenger has to.”

With SriLankan Airlines having positioned Colombo as the Gateway to India, a large proportion of transit passengers are flying to and from the 11 cities that the airline serves there. SriLankan last year became the first foreign carrier to operate 100 weekly flights to India. The airline’s route network now serves 54 cities in 28 countries.

But an increasing number of travellers are using Colombo from other regions. These include Middle Eastern travellers on vacation en route to the Far East; Europeans travelling to the Maldives and Thailand; and Japanese heading for the Maldives.


Export promotion display and sales centre of edb at Bandaranaike International Airport – Katunayake

The Sri Lanka Export Development Board has taken steps to establish Export Promotion Display and Sales Centre of EDB at the Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake.

The opening ceremony of this Export Promotion Display and Sales Centre of EDB at the Bandaranaike International Airport will take place on 7th February 2008 at the Katunayake Airport under the patronage of Hon. Prof. G.L. Pieris, the Minister of Export Development and International Trade and Hon. Chamal Rajapakse , Minister of Ports & Aviation and Irrigation & Water Management.

The establishment of Export Promotion and Display Centre is a significant effort initiated by the Sri Lanka Export Development Board under the purview of the Ministry of Export Development & International Trade to promote and develop products of SME’s displaying their products.

The development of export sector specially SMEs is a key area highlighted under the Mahinda Chinthanaya . The national policy based on Mahinda Chinthanaya , emphasizes the importance of the role played by the business community to help build the national economy and also provide various assistance to maintain their success.

Consequent to a request by the National Council for the Economic Development (NECD), the Government proposed to establish a permanent Display Centre at the Bandaranaike International Airport by the budget speech of 2005. In para 48 of the Budget Speech of 2005 , it was declared that the showroom space would be allocated at the arrival and departure lounges of the BIA and the exemption VAT applicable to imported goods purchased from the duty free shops for payment in foreign currency would be extended to locally supplied goods as means of popularizing Sri Lankan products.

As the apex state organization for export development, Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) was entrusted with the task of operating and managing the Centre at the airport.

The Sri Lanka Export Development Board being the responsible organization to implement this programme has made all efforts to be a reality involved in various activities during the last three years. SLEDB had various discussions and negotiations with various authorities to make this event a success.

The objective of the establishment of a permanent display centre at this Bandaranaike International Airport is to popularize Sri Lankan export products around the globe.

It is an acceptable factor that one of the best attractive places to display products for the purpose of promoting would be the airports and sea ports where the foreign tourists arrives and depart. Today, we have only one place where we can see the arrival and departure of foreigners ie., only Bandaranaike International Airport. Therefore, the opening of display centres of this nature at the airport is a new effort for promotion and development of exports. The target group of the Sri Lanka Display Centre is tourists and locals arriving and departing through Katunayake Airport. This will be a Sri Lankan product showcase for exportable products and will provide opportunities for the participating export companies to introduce and sell quality products.