Sri Lanka aviation sector shows strong profits in 2023

A SriLankan Airlines Airbus A320 on the taxiway.
Shadman Samee from Dhaka, Bangladesh, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Len Varley - Assistant Editor 6 Min Read
6 Min Read

Sri Lanka’s aviation sector has been on a winning streak, reporting a substantial profit of Rs. 22 billion during the period from January to August 2023.

This outstanding achievement was recently announced by Mr. Nimal Siripala de Silva, the Minister of Port, Shipping, and Aviation, during a news briefing held at the President Media Centre on October 9th.

The theme of the briefing was ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country,’ and this impressive financial performance is a significant step in that direction.

A Boost to the Treasury

One of the most noteworthy aspects of this profit is that approximately Rs. 10 billion of it has already been contributed to the national treasury, providing a much-needed boost to the country’s finances.

This injection of funds into the treasury signifies a positive economic outlook for Sri Lanka and bodes well for its overall stability.


Restructuring Sri Lankan Airlines

The Cabinet has recently granted approval for a comprehensive restructuring plan for SriLankan Airlines. Collaborative discussions have taken place with the World Bank to ensure transparency in this process.

An international consultant has been appointed to expedite the restructuring, with anticipated benefits expected by February of the forthcoming year.

It’s crucial to note that the airline presently does not own any aircraft; instead, all available aircraft are leased. Acquiring new aircraft is not an immediate process and generally involves a waiting period of approximately one-year post-order.

Due to the absence of Airbus A330 widebody aircraft in the current fleet, the airline faces limitations in offering services to destinations such as England, France, and Australia.

The existing fleet primarily comprises A320 aircraft, which are unsuitable for long-haul or remote operations. Thus, the restructuring of the airline is imperative to address these challenges effectively.

Palali International Airport’s Success Story

Another success story in Sri Lanka’s aviation sector is the remarkable performance of Palali International Airport.

The airport has completed an impressive 200 flights, underscoring its increasing significance and efficiency in handling air travel.

This achievement speaks volumes about the growing importance of this airport in the region.

Overcoming Challenges

It’s important to note that the aviation sector in Sri Lanka has faced its fair share of challenges, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, reduced tourist arrivals, and a dollar crisis that affected fuel supply for airplanes.

At one point, the country had to resort to sending aircraft to Madras to obtain the necessary fuel. However, proactive measures were taken by the Minister of Petroleum and Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva to facilitate the private sector’s import of aviation fuel, ensuring a stable supply for airplanes.

Additionally, modern technology was employed to develop Bandaranaike International Airport, earning it recognition as a prominent airport in Southeast Asia.

These strategic moves have not only addressed past challenges but also positioned Sri Lanka’s aviation sector for future growth.

Enhanced Connectivity

Efforts have also been made to increase the frequency of flights by different airlines operating in Sri Lanka. This move is expected to enhance connectivity and accessibility for travelers, further boosting the sector’s growth potential.

In accordance with the Minister’s report, several prominent airlines are actively operating in Sri Lanka. For instance, Emirates Airlines currently operates 28 flights per week, while Qatar Airways provides an impressive 35 weekly flights.

The presence of these airlines signifies Sri Lanka’s attractiveness as a travel destination and a hub for international flights.

Transforming Bandaranaike International Airport

Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake, once a scarcely frequented facility, has now evolved into a bustling aviation hub. In the month of August alone, it catered to the needs of over 650,000 passengers.

This surge in passenger traffic has significantly contributed to its financial prosperity. In the first eight months of this year, the airport has managed to generate a substantial profit of Rs. 22 billion through its aviation services, with Rs. 10 billion allocated to the national treasury.

Mattala Airport’s Attractiveness to Investors

Sri Lanka is actively working on a strategic initiative to attract potential investors to the Mattala Airport. Furthermore, measures have been put in place to actively mitigate the airport’s operational losses, ensuring its long-term sustainability and financial health.

Collaboration Opportunities

Tata’s acquisition of Air India, which includes orders for 250 Boeing 777 aircraft, presents opportunities for collaboration.

These collaborations, possibly with regional airlines, offer the potential to secure the future prospects and rights of the 6000th employee of the Sri Lankan company, thereby fortifying the industry’s position.

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