By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Going forward, in trimming down the excess baggage, SriLankan Airlines is set to start absorbing the budget carrier Mihin Lanka by October.
The debt-laden national carrier, which is on a restructuring drive to look attractive for a potential partner, will go ahead with the merger as announced by the government. The objective of the move is to prevent duplication of resources, which has been contributing to the mounting loss of the entity.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the airline’s Global Contact Centre launch (see Page 10), SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ajith Dias stressed that no routes of Mihin Lanka would be discontinued following Mihin’s closure.
“The plan is for the routes of Mihin to be absorbed by SriLankan Airlines. They will run under our brand. We are looking at October to kick off the process, but hope the entire process would be done by December,” said Dias.
“SriLankan will be a full-service airline. It is a fully-fledged carrier today and it will continue to be so. Fares we will adjust to cater to the same segment that Mihin was offering,” he added.
Dias pointed out that while the plan is to do away with budget fare rates, certain routes will be offered at different price points. It was shared that in this regard, the government is yet to make a decision, which will be announced in the coming weeks.
Absorbed into SriLankan will also be Mihin Lanka’s fleet of four aircraft. However, by January only two aircraft would remain, as two of the aircraft would be returned as their lease agreements are scheduled to lapse. Speaking about the national carrier’s improved performance, Dias said for the year-to-date, SriLankan Airlines has managed to cut its overall losses by 29 percent and operating loss by 70 percent.
When questioned about the status of the 10 expressions of interest (EOI) received for the purchase of a 40 percent stake of SriLankan, Dias expressed it is better for the management not to be aware of all the details since according to him, the priority of the management is to have the paper work ready and facilitate the due diligence for the shortlisted parties.
“That is our job. The rest is up to the government to decide,” he said.
However, going on to comment on the recent developments, Dias said, “The international partner will be very useful and hopefully they will come with some money. If not for the debt, running this airline is no big deal. But this is not our doing, we inherited this and we are looking to fix it.”
Random breathalyser tests on technical crew to continue
Despite calls to abandon the random breathalyser tests carried out on technical crew members including pilots, national carrier SriLankan Airlines yesterday stressed it would stick to the procedure as passenger safety remains paramount for them.
“Amidst many media reports that have appeared, especially online, regarding the decision to carry out periodic random substance abuse tests on technical crew, SriLankan Airlines wishes to reiterate that it will adhere to the highest standards of safety and will not compromise in its duty to its passengers.
The safety and security of our customers will always be our first priority,” SriLankan said in a brief statement.
The statement further said the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka requires all airline crew members to undergo periodic random substance abuse testing.
“Any refusal to take such a test whilst on duty is tantamount to violation of the regulation issued by the Civil Aviation Authority and anyone doing so will be subject to disciplinary action as per existing regulations and procedures,” the statement noted.
SriLankan last month had to suspend a captain who failed a breathalyser test just before he was due to fly 274 passengers and crew from Frankfurt to Colombo.