Sri Lanka’s national carrier is poised to relaunch a Sydney route in the middle of next year, and hopes to position the island as an alternative stopover route to Australia.
The airline had hoped to bring the route back in 2019, but plans were shelved in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks.
“Sri Lanka is a very good half-way point from the UK – 10 hours to Colombo, then 10 hours to Sydney,” said chief executive Vipula Gunatilleka.
“Our daily Melbourne route has been excellent for us, particularly for the Indian market, and we expect Sydney to be similarly appealing,” he added, citing that Australia’s 700,000-strong Indian population is expected to grow to 1.3 million in the next five years.
The airline formerly flew to Sydney, but ceased in 2001 because of a terrorist incident, and currently flies only from Colombo to Melbourne.
He confirmed plans for Colombo routes to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India, are also on the table for 2020.
Gunatilleka said that passenger numbers had recovered well since the Easter attacks, with numbers currently only 7% down on the same time last year – though he admitted yields have not been high.
“Yields have come under a lot of pressure; we’ve had to be flexible on pricing,” he said. “We now need [yields] to bounce back.”
The airline confirmed it is to relaunch its website and mobile app next year in a bid to appeal to travellers who expect a “content-rich digital experience”, while the SriLankan Holidays website will relaunch in January.