Colombo, May 29 (NIA) – Sri Lanka’s state run Sri Lankan Airlines will launch direct fights to Melbourne, Australia daily from October targeting business travelers, students as well as international travelers, the Airline said in a statement on Monday.
Sri Lankan Airlines said Australia was home to one of the largest Sri Lankan expatriate communities, many of whom reside in and around Melbourne, the capital of Australia’s ‘Garden State’, Victoria.
This factor, together with the tremendous potential for business travel and Victoria’s growing student population convinced the Airline to plan for the launch of non-stop daily services to Melbourne, which is scheduled to begin from Oct 29, the Airline said.
The non-stop services will also facilitate passengers from the Middle East and South Asia seeking onward connectivity via Colombo to or from Australia.
SriLankan Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer, Captain Suren Ratwatte said, “Our presence in Australia cements the long-standing relationship between our two countries. We recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our nations, and the addition of Melbourne signifies our strategy of optimizing the Airline’s network in line with our restructuring.”
“This also means that we have connected another continent to our global route map. On the other hand, given the number of Sri Lankans residing in and around Victoria, we fulfill a long felt need for a direct service,” he added.
The Airline will be operating Airbus 330-200 aircraft on the route.
SriLankan Airlines’ Chief Commercial Officer, Siva Ramachandran said that despite the absence of direct connections, the Airline had witnessed a steady increase in passengers travelling between Colombo and Melbourne via various Asian connecting points such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
“Our direct services will give us a definite advantage as SriLankan is the only carrier that is able to offer connectivity of this nature at this time. We also offer seamless onward connections beyond Colombo to a range of destinations in the Indian Sub-Continent and Middle East,” he said.
With the launch of this new service, SriLankan Airlines’ passengers will have the choice of flying to other Australian cities such as Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide as well as Auckland, New Zealand.
Australia’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Bryce Hutchesson said the direct air connections between the countries will stimulate two-way tourism, business, trade and people-to-people exchange which are the core ingredients for a vibrant bilateral relationship.
“We are seeing a growing number of Australians looking to travel to Sri Lanka for tourism and business, and to reconnect with family. And we welcome the growing number of Sri Lankans travelling to Australia for education, business, to explore Australia’s culture and natural wonders, and of course to catch up with family and friends.”
Australia accounts for one of the largest Sri Lankan communities living outside Sri Lanka, out of which almost 50 per cent lives in and around Victoria, making Melbourne the convenient terminus for their departures and arrivals.
For the convenience of travellers seeking onward connectivity from its Colombo hub, SriLankan currently connects over 10 Indian points with over 100 flights a week, which includes services to/from Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Calcutta, Trivandrum, Tiruchirappalli, Cochin, Mumbai and New Delhi. SriLankan will be adding Visakhapatnam, Coimbatore and Hyderabad to its route network in July this year, further expanding its presence in India.
The Airline’s Middle Eastern services include over fifty weekly flights to/from nine Middle Eastern destinations, including daily services out of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Riyadh, Muscat, Bahrain and Kuwait. The Airline also offers its passengers the option of exploring popular holiday destinations such as Seychelles and Maldives’ Male and Gan Island.
These operations will further complement the existing double daily services offered by SriLankan Airlines between Sri Lanka and Australia via Singapore and Kuala Lumpur with its codeshare partners, Qantas and Malaysia Airlines, Sri Lankan Airlines said.