sajin vass to resign from "Mihin Lanka"

CEO of Mihin Lanka Sajin Vaas Gunawardena will resign from his post at the end of this month to pave the way for a tie up with SriLankan Airlines and his brother Manoj Vaas Gunawardena to take over as CEO of the national carrier.

The Sunday Leader learns Sajin Vaas Gunawardena will continue to serve in the board of Mihin Lanka while Manoj Vaas Gunawardena will assume the CEO post of SriLankan Airlines from next month.

It is learned that Aviation Minister Chamal Rajapakse will forward to cabinet a memorandum outlining the proposed tie up between SriLankan and Mihin.

Sajin Vaas Gunawardena last Friday posed for a photograph with his staff and announced his resignation as CEO, but said he would continue as a board member.

A source at Mihin Lanka said Sajin's resignation will only be on paper and he would continue to be in charge from behind the scenes. The source said the resignation was aimed at muting a conflict of interest that the two brothers were both CEOs of government owned airlines.

Sajin after attending a meeting Friday with his board members and senior managerial staff, took a group photo after which he announced that he would resign by end of the month.

He had also announced that someone better would take over as CEO of Mihin and that he would still be on the board.

Minister Rajapakse has already signed a memorandum to be presented to cabinet outlining the commercial agreement Mihin is to sign with SriLankan. The memorandum was to be presented at last week's cabinet meeting, but the cabinet did not meet.

According to the cabinet memorandum SriLankan Airlines and Mihin will have a close working relationship in which Mihin will operate the routes that are more profitable to a budget airline while SriLankan will continue to develop its already established routes.

The memorandum also states that the government has recognised that there are structural and managerial deficiencies in Mihin and has attributed Mihin's failure to return an operational profit to structural and managerial deficiencies and not to any problems with capacity or the number of passengers.

Mihin has regained control of its aircraft after receiving an additional Rs. 250 million from the Treasury, wrangled out in a hurry after an incident in Bombay where one of the aircraft was grounded following an emergency landing and passengers were delayed for as much as six hours.

Speculation is rife that Lalith Silva, already a director of SriLankan may be appointed CEO of Mihin. In fact sources say President Mahinda Rajapakse had earlier wanted Silva to take over as CEO of SriLankan but he had turned down the offer.

Silva was formerly a director of Mobitel, in which Australian telecom giant Telestra had shares. Silva was apparently a key figure in negotiating Telestra's departure from the state-owned mobile telecom company, ultimately being appointed as CEO of Mobitel. Government sources say that they hope that Silva could perform a similar feat with Emirates. He is a Ministry favourite as they feel he has 'integrity and highly valued financial probity' sources say.

India Oil wants to market aviation fuel in Sri Lanka

Having stabilised operations to retail transport fuels in Sri Lanka, the Lanka Indian Oil Corp, a subsidiary of India's state-run oil company, will ask for Colombo's permission to market aviation fuel.

"We are applying to the government to participate in the aviation fuel marketing and we are ready to develop infrastructure facilities for it," the managing director of Lanka Indian Oil Corp, K Ramakrishnan, said.

He said that Lanka IOC had offered to build its storage facilities and supply aviation fuel at the Katunayake international airport near here or the new airport at Weerawila, some 300 km away.

At the moment, the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corp (CPC) has a monopoly in marketing aviation fuel in this island nation.

"In the event of the government granting us the permission, we will augment CPC in the marketing of aviation fuel. But keeping it as a monopoly may not be desirable for a growing economy like Sri Lanka," Ramakrishnan said.

"We are hopeful that we will get permission to develop infrastructure and import aviation fuel to Colombo and Trincomalee ports and do the marketing," he said, adding they were also seeking to expand the retail outlets to 324 from 152.

The company, a subsidiary of the Indian Oil Corp, in Sri Lanka, was incorporated to retail petroleum products, bulk supplies to industrial consumers and also to build and operate storage facilities at the Trincomalee.

Ramakrishnan said that the government of Sri Lanka would also be approached for another fuel price increase in the near future because global oil prices had shot up further. He, nevertheless, said the company was making impressive profits.

He said the company was expected to log a turnover of around $400 million for the year ended March 31. "This will prove Lanka IOC is the number one company in terms of turnover among private enterprises in Sri Lanka."

Lanka IOC imports petroleum products in two ports at Colombo and Trincomalee and keeps stocks ay both places. In November last year, it commissioned a $5 million lube oil blending plant with the capacity of 18,000 tonnes a year.

"Even at the beginning stage we are doing pretty well in this plant and blending some 300,000 litres of lubricants a month. We have larger plans for Trincomalee oil tank farm which has 850 acres of land with a very good jetty nearby."


Sri Lankan Airlines catering service gets new food safety certification

Sri Lankan Catering, has just added the ISO22000:2005 and HACCP-Codex Alimentarius accreditations to its existing ISO9001:2000 standard, an airline statement said.

"Sri Lankan Catering met full compliance at the professional audits that were performed by the certifying bodies prior to the certifications," Dilip Nijhawan, chief executive of Sri Lankan Catering, was quoted as saying.

"These certifications have very strict standards and are extremely tough to obtain."

Nijhawan said the certifications recognise Sri Lankan Catering's products, systems and procedures as being of the highest global standards.

Sri Lankan Catering, one of the airline's main profit centres, provides in-flight catering for Sri Lankan Airlines and other airlines that fly through Colombo, and also operates restaurants at the island's sole international airport.

The company produces more than 13,500 meals a day in its fight kitchen which was built with an investment of 25 million US dollars.

The new certifications provide strict standards and guidelines for management of the entire production process, beginning with how raw materials such as vegetables, meats and fruits are received, through the preparation of meals, and transportation right up to delivery.


Government to offer rich incentives to retain SriLankan pilots

The new management of SriLankan Airlines, the country's national carrier is planning to offer a duty free car permit and a salary increase of 1,500 US dollars to the pilots in order to retain them in the company, says a reliable source.

Expecting a turnover of pilots with the politically appointed new management, the incentive package which has been offered by the previous management is reconsidered as the future of the airline is in doubts.

According to the sources, representatives of the Pilot’s Guild of SriLanka are to meet with the Aviation Minister, Chamal Rajapaksa to discuss the matter in near future.


SriLankan smiles amidst losses

“SriLankan Airlines has recorded a 50% loss on its total assets and a 45% loss in its financial assets under the Emirates Mangement within the last two years alone,” Ports and Aviation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa said yesterday.

Addressing the new management and the employees at the ceremony held to signify the change of management from Emirates Airlines to SriLankan Airlines at the Bandaranaike International Airport yesterday, he said the challenge before the employees and the management was how to make the national carrier a profit making venture.

“You have the backing of the government to meet that goal. What you need is more determination, dedication and self confidence. We can learn lessons from our neighbor India and our friend China to do that. Your priority must be to strengthen the financial capacity and management discipline of the national carrier,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.

Partially privatized in 1998, SriLankan Airlines is once again a fully state-owned carrier since its launch in 1979. SriLankan Airlines now serves 41 destinations in 22 countries in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia and the Far East and is the largest foreign carrier operating to India with 100 weekly flights to 11 destinations.

SriLankan Airlines has maintained a dynamic programme to expand its number of destinations and the new frequency of flights to each destination through its own flights and code shares. New destinations in recent years include Amsterdam, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Bradford, Teeside, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Beijing, Jeddah, Goa and Coimbatore.

SriLankan operates a fleet of 14 Airbus built wide bodied A340 and A330 aircraft and mid range A320s. The fleet comprises 5 Airbus A340s, 4 Airbus A330–200s and 5 Airbus A320–200 aircraft.

The Government of Sri Lanka holds 51.05% and Emirates Airline holds 43.63% share of the national carrier while the employees’ share is 5.32%.

On the new board of directors of Srilankan Airlines Dr. P.B. Jayasundara (Chairman) and members Nishantha Wickramasingha, Lalith De Silva, and Sunil Wijesingha represent Sri Lanka while Tim Clerk, Gary Chapman and Nigel Hopkins represent Emirates.

Emirates re-introduces First Class on flights to Colombo

Travellers out of Colombo can now experience the luxury of Emirates’ First Class service, following the introduction of three-class configuration on selected flights.

The award-winning Dubai-based carrier has replaced the Airbus A330 aircraft it operated on flight EK 552 to Dubai on Mondays and Thursdays, with Boeing 777 aircraft with 14 and 12 First Class seats respectively, with effect from March 31st, 2008.

As a result, passengers who wish to travel First Class from Colombo onwards can now do so twice a week and consequently earn more Skywards Miles from Emirates’ Frequent Flyer Programme, noted Emirates’ Sales Manager Sri Lanka, Devika Ellepola.

With an all-pervading air of luxury and exclusivity, Emirates’ First Class travel truly sets passengers in a class of their own. From the plush airport lounges with full business facilities to the ultra swift check-in and boarding, First Class passengers are pampered from the moment their journey begins - until they leave the comfort of their seats to be whisked in style to their final destination.

On the Emirates Boeing 777 aircraft, the roomy sleeper seats are separated by wide aisles and are equipped with electronically-controlled leg rest, lumbar support and adjustable headrests.

The personal swivel table stored in the armrest slides aside at a touch. Ample wardrobe and overhead locker space is provided and all passengers receive exclusive complimentary amenity kits on night flights. Each First Class cabin has two exclusive toilets for the use of passengers.

“The return of First Class services on Emirates flights departing Colombo after more than nine years would be welcomed by many of our frequent flyers,” Mrs Ellepola said. “This is a development that we have worked towards because we believe there is potential in the market.”

The possibility of introducing aircraft in three-class configuration on more flights out of Colombo would be explored as the year progresses, she said.

One of the world’s fastest-growing international airlines, Emirates operates 17 flights a week from Colombo to Dubai and four flights a week from Colombo to Singapore and Jakarta.

The airline now serves 100 destinations and has already announced plans to start services to Calicut, India and Guangzhou, China, on 1st July followed and to Los Angeles on 1st September.