Jun 17, 2019

Two European airlines to start winter flights to Colombo

Signalling a much needed reversal of fortunes for the tourism industry, two international airlines have formally expressed interest in commencing flights to Sri Lanka in the upcoming winter season.

The Sunday Morning Business reliably learnt that Switzerland’s Edelweiss Air and Poland’s LOT Polish have formally communicated their intentions to operate flights in winter and are currently engaged in discussions with Sri Lankan authorities.

As reported exclusively by The Sunday Morning Business on 26 May, Sri Lanka lost a staggering 41 flights in the first month after the Easter attacks, with 11 different international airlines reducing their flight frequencies to the island, affecting air connectivity with seven countries.

Edelweiss already operates flights in summer to Sri Lanka and the extension to winter is a vote of confidence in the country amidst tough conditions. In fact, we learnt that Edelweiss has already sold nearly 200 seats on its first winter flight to Sri Lanka. The airline’s official website said that flights between Zurich and Colombo can currently be booked for travel between October 2019 and April 2020.

Edelweiss Air is a Swiss leisure airline owned by Swiss International Air Lines which in turn is owned by Lufthansa. It has a fleet size of 16 and operates flights to 65 destinations including European and intercontinental destinations from its base at Zurich Airport. Switzerland contributed 34,000 tourists in 2018, 24.6% year-on-year growth.

LOT polish, the flag carrier of Poland, had first communicated its intention to commence direct flights to Sri Lanka prior to Easter, and had reiterated its commitment to commencing winter flights following the attacks.

LOT polish President Rafał Milczarski in a statement at the time, noted that they decided to start a regular connection to Sri Lanka due to the very large tourist potential of this direction. Annually, more than 1.8 million people travel between Europe and Colombo.

According to the official website of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Poland, the Polish carrier will offer the service from 3 November 2019 to 28 March 2020 with nine-hour flights from Warsaw to Colombo on a Boeing 787-9 LOT Dreamliner. The initial plan is to operate two direct flights from Warsaw per week.

LOT polish is one of the world’s oldest airlines still in operation and has a fleet of 77, with flights to 101 destinations across Europe, Asia, and North America. Over 20,000 polish tourists visited Sri Lanka last year, a 6% year-on-year growth.

Meanwhile, India’s national carrier Air India will resume its additional flight on Delhi-Colombo route from July 15, the Indian Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Sunday. The airline had stopped operating the additional flight after the Easter Sunday attack.