LONDON – Following controversy over grounded aircraft by its government, Aeroflot has announced that it will resume services to Sri Lanka.
It is understood that from October, the Moscow-Colombo route will be reinstated, on conditions being promised by the Sri Lankan government that none of its planes will be grounded or arrested.
On top of this, Sri Lankan media have reported that another carrier is due to operate this route as well, which comes as no surprise given how lucrative the Russian market still is at present.
For example, the country is the ninth largest outbound market with annual spending of nearly $50bn for holidays abroad.
Context of the Situation…
Back in June, Sri Lankan authorities grounded an Aeroflot Airbus A330 due to an arrest warrant approved on behalf of leasing giant GECAS.
The arrest warrant was issued on behalf of Selective Aviation Trading Limited, which is in alignment with aircraft lessor GECAS, as the leasing giant looks to acquire some aircraft stolen by the Russian Government.
Such nationalization of aircraft took place through the re-registering of aircraft back to the Russian registry of RA.
Now, these aircraft are doing international flights; this does open up the potential for groundings to occur once again, meaning the lessors will actually be able to get their aircraft back.
RA-73702 was the particular aircraft in question.
Then, around three days after that, the Sri Lankan courts lifted the ban, allowing the aircraft to leave the country.
It is also understood that this is a result of political pressure from Russia, with the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Moscow being summoned to the Kremlin for an explanation, according to local media.
By the end of July, there was a lot of hope from travel authorities in Sri Lanka hoping that Aeroflot would resume services to Colombo from Moscow soon, following the grounded aircraft saga.
Such diplomatic rows have created a worsened relationship between Sri Lanka and Russia, but Aeroflot is interested in returning to the capital.
A CAA official told the Daily Mirror in Sri Lanka: “They have not committed yet. But we believe they are planning on resuming flights soon. However, they will likely run into the existing issues of jet fuel shortage and fund repatriation issues”.
On top of this, Aeroflot will want to make a comeback to the Sri Lankan capital, especially with UAE-based carrier Flydubai occupying a lot of its market share since the route suspension.
Flydubai currently accounts for 35.2% of Russian arrivals into Sri Lanka, with the obvious stopover in Dubai not putting travelers off from traveling to the region per se.
That being said, however, Russian tourist arrivals fell to 1,610 in June, which is a substantial decrease.
Either way, this will be good news more on the side of Aeroflot, who is looking to generate as much revenue where possible, given its destination list being limited due to the ongoing Ukraine Crisis.