National carrier SriLankan Airlines yesterday said it would be suspending its operations to Paris and Frankfurt from winter 2016 as the two European routes are continuing to incur losses amid stiff competition from the Middle Eastern (ME) carriers and drop in airfares. Accordingly, the last flights between Frankfurt and Colombo (UL 553/554) will be operated on October 30, while UL 563/564 of November 6, 2016 will conclude the operations between Paris and Colombo.
The airline said it had been made clear to them that the government would no longer fund continuing losses. “Addition of capacity to the Colombo market particularly by the Middle Eastern carriers, accompanied by a drop in airfares in European markets has seen the contribution of the European network drop in comparison to the other routes,” SriLankan said in a statement. The airline added that the situation had been further exacerbated by the depreciation of the euro against the dollar.
While the drop in fuel prices has contributed to the airline’s improved performance, this benefit has been significantly eroded with the airline’s revenues declining for the financial year ending 2015/16 compared to the previous year. SriLankan operates daily flights to both Doha and Abu Dhabi and has a codeshare relationship with Etihad and Qatar through which it hopes to continue to provide onward connectivity to the European destinations it has been serving via Paris and Frankfurt.
London will remain SriLankan’s gateway to Europe, where the airline has deployed its state-of-the-art A330-300 fleet for daily non-stop operations, providing a greater comfort and an enhanced flying experience to its passengers. The airline also said the Indian subcontinent, Middle East and East Asia would remain its focal markets, where it would continue to explore its potential for expansion. In a separate development, Mirror Business learns that the ground handling operations by SriLankan at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) have been instructed to be handed over to Airport & Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited. A letter to this end from the prime minister’s office has already been delivered to the airline, Mirror Business further learns. An email inquiry by Mirror Business sent to SriLankan Airlines in this regard still remains unanswered. Sources at Airport & Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited told Mirror Business that they would continue to obtain the services of SriLankan officials to carry out the ground handling operations at BIA to ensure no job cuts at SriLankan. They said the transfer of operations was carried out to comply with the regulations that require a company 51 percent owned by the government to perform the ground handling operations at BIA.