Sri Lankan Airlines cuts flights to India by half

March 25th, 2009 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, March 25 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s national carrier has cut its flights to India by half, a report said Wednesday.
“Sri Lankan Airlines has slashed flights to India from 100 a week to 51, as part of a cost-cutting strategy and re-aligning of services to conserve cash and maximize yields,” Lanka Business Online (LBO) quoting a top airline official said.

“In the first quarter of the financial year starting March 2008, the airline lost almost 50 million US dollars, on core airline operations, but progressively in the next two to three quarters we’ve managed to stem this loss significantly,” Manoj Gunewardena, chief executive officer of the airline has been quoted as saying.

“In the two months of December and January we have managed to break even on operations. With the financial year almost over the airline would end on a minus, though cash flows have stabilized,” Gunewardena told LBO in an interview Saturday.

According to LBO, the carrier has lost 6.1 billion rupees in 2008 on core airline operations but ended the year with a 4.8 billion rupee profit, with aircraft sales bringing capital gains.

This has supplemented 3.3 billion rupees earned from ground handling and 985 million rupees from catering.

In March 2008, Emirates Airlines, a shareholder, pulled out of a management deal with Sri Lankan Airlines and the government appointed Gunewardena to run it.

The slashing of flights to Indian destinations had been timed with a replacement of the airline’s ageing fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft which were flying mostly to India.

Gunewardena has said that the competition on Indian routes became “cut throat” and as a result 100 flights per week were cut to 70 and then to 51 in the summer schedule which runs till October this year.

“This is done to consolidate, to stem our losses, not get into a battle where we would bleed in terms of pricing,” Gunewardena said, adding that Cochin, Calicut, Coimbatore and Hyderabad were dropped from the route network.

He said Indian destinations that generate traffic to and from Sri Lanka have been maintained.

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