SriLankan Fleet Revamp: Go or No Go?

John Taggart from Claydon Banbury, Oxfordshire, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – The Sri Lankan flag carrier is going through a patchy transformation. The state-run carrier is plagued by mismanagement and is currently undergoing scrutiny by parliament.

The airline presented a fleet strategy and is exploring options to lease new aircraft. Despite submitting proposals to the parliament, the house has asked the airline to delay the decision by October.

After handing in the RFP (Request for Proposals) regarding fleet upgrades in April, the airline will nevertheless start the fleet procurement plan. The plan includes dry leasing of up to 21 aircraft, both in the narrow and wide-body category.

Of the 21 leased aircraft, 12 of them are to be replacement aircraft by 2025, and the additional 9 aircraft to cater to passenger growth.

The flag carrier has been advised by the parliamentary committee, the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) to delay the plans to dry lease 21 aircraft until October to ensure greater scrutiny.  This bid comes in after a handful of the aircraft lease contracts are ending.

SriLankan Airlines said: “Roughly 60% of the planned aircraft will be a fleet replacement, and the remainder will be to support the airline’s expansion strategy and meet the growing demand for air travel between Sri Lanka and the world.”

During the course of the pandemic, three Sri Lankan airline lease agreements have expired, and the remaining nine by 2025. Sri Lankan airlines announced that the funding of the aircraft is to be through foreign funds.

Moreover, the airline stated:

“It would be ideal if the Procurement Process was progressed to the level of decision-making by October 2022. Failure to do so may result in the cancellation of several routes from March 2023 onwards and the contraction of revenues.”

The airline’s Chairman, Ashok Pathirage previously claimed that the airline would lease up to 42 planes, but that were just ‘options’,  and nothing has been formalized as had been previously reported in early April. The initial plans for procuring or exploring such aircraft are shown below:

  • Up to 11 A320-200s, A320-200Ns, A321-200s, or A321-200Ns.
  • 10 A330s, either A330-200s or A330-300s.
  • Up to 11 A220-100s, A220-300s, E190-E2s, or E195-E2s.
  • Ten A330-800s, A330-900s, A350-900s, B787-9s, or B787-10s.

The carrier still hasn’t decided which aircraft are they confirming to procure. Pathirage stated that:

“It all depends on the pricing and what’s on offer. [The deliveries are] until 2025. We are not taking it all at once. And these are not new, they are used, second-hand. This whole exercise is to understand what’s out there and pricing.

Despite delays, the airline could still possibly expand. The airline is still optimistic about expanding and taking delivery of nine new aircraft.

The airline said: “The Management is also exploring the market conditions for a further nine aircraft during the period up to 2025 in line with Tourism and International Travel Forecasts published by reputed international organizations such as IATA (International Air Transport Association).”

Sri Lankan Airlines’ fate still hangs in the balance as it waits for further confirmation from the parliament. Given the economic crisis in the country, one doubts there would be any positive news surrounding the ‘project’.

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