SriLankan grows flight frequency to Chinese cities

SRILANKAN Airlines is ramping up its flight frequency to China as it seeks to capture a larger slice of the growing Chinese outbound market.

The state-owned carrier will hike its thrice-weekly Beijing flights and four-weekly Shanghai flights to daily services from July 15. It will also increase its Guangzhou operations from three to four times a week in July.

The airline will deploy A330 and A340 aircraft, each featuring 81 business class seats and 236-296 economy class seats. All three routes are flown from Colombo via Bangkok.

SriLankan Airlines chief marketing officer, G T Jayaseelan, said this was part of the carrier’s five-year plan to expand to Asia and rationalise its flight cutbacks to Europe. The focus is to tap the huge Chinese charter market to the Maldives, where the airline is a big player, through its Colombo base.

“In the long run we see many Chinese operators starting flights and we want to be there before this market expands,” he said, adding that the increased frequency will boost its Maldives operations.

Sri Lanka’s share of the Chinese outbound market is miniscule. In 2011, the country received 18,505 Chinese arrivals (including visitors from Hong Kong) – up from 11,660 in 2010 – of which more than half are workers in Chinese construction sites in Sri Lanka.

Chaminda Dias, executive director at Luxe Asia, a Colombo-based DMC, welcomed the move. “It is easier to schedule packages when there are daily flights compared to flights on different days of the week,” he said.

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