Sri Lankan Airlines Races to Increase Flights and Fleet Amid Challenges


Sri Lankan Airlines is racing to restore flight frequencies and increase the number of aircraft in service as it aims to double capacities on its high-demand routes. Its CEO, Richard Nuttall, stated that the GCC markets, especially Dubai and the UAE, are crucial for the airline to achieve these goals, and the carrier plans to replace aircraft that are going off-lease by mid-next year. The airline operates 43 daily flights to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, and Kuwait, serving predominantly Sri Lankan expats. However, it has been struggling with legacy issues surrounding its financial viability, while the country is rebuilding its economy.

The Sri Lankan government has agreed to restructure and partially privatize several state-owned enterprises, including the airline, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The first step is to find a way to restructure the company’s balance sheet. The government established a State-Owned Enterprise Restructuring Unit (SRU) to help privatize SOEs working with international contractors. At some stage during that process, Sri Lankan Airlines plans to ask for Expressions of Interest in buying the airline.

SriLankan Airlines is also struggling to retain talent, losing several of its technical staff and pilots to GCC carriers, said Nuttal. However, the airline is starting cadet programs and recruiting expatriates. The carrier is also finding it challenging to get its fleet of 23 aircraft back up in the air due to a shortage of engines, particularly for its A320Neos. It has requested a proposal to lease five Airbus A330 aircraft and five A320 jets to grow its fleet size to 27 by mid-2024.

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