SriLankan Airlines, whose larger focus now lies with Asian and the Middle East regions, will commence operating flights from Colombo to the Pakistani city of Lahore from today, a statement by the airline said. “This is an important step in our strategy of increasing our focus on Asia, from the Middle East in the west to China and Japan in the east. In addition, as we announced previously, we are taking over operations of Mihin Lanka, in accordance with our government’s policy,” SriLankan Chairman Ajith Dias said.
The route will be served by SriLankan’s medium-haul fleet of Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft. SriLankan already has a daily service to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and commercial centre. “We will be closely evaluating the market opportunities in Lahore and other South Asian cities and adding more destinations and frequencies. This further cements our burgeoning partnership with Pakistan International Airlines with whom we expect further cooperation,” SriLankan Airlines CEO Captain Suren Ratwatte said. SriLankan has already leased an A330-300 to the state-owned Pakistan International Airlines on a wet lease and is currently in discussion to lease three more aircraft on a dry lease arrangement.
The service will be twice weekly for the first month of operation with flights on Tuesday and Thursday and will then be increased to thrice weekly starting from October 30 with a change to flights on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Flights will depart Colombo at 2010 hours, arrive in Lahore at 2335, depart Lahore at 0035 the next day and arrive in Colombo at 0505. Lahore is the capital of the Punjab Province with a population in excess of 10 million. With the addition of Lahore, SriLankan expects to expand its network to 100 destinations in 48 countries.
But the debt-laden airline is reducing its exposure to European markets on a cost-cutting exercise. SriLankan will cease flying to Frankfurt and Paris from this November. SriLankan is a member of the oneworld global airline alliance.