Sri Lankan Airlines’ fleet is now largest in history

* Number of planes could exceed 19 this year
* Acquisitions through operating leases

Sri Lanka’s national carrier has expanded its fleet to 17 which is the highest in its history and with further acquisitions planned out for the year, the number of planes could exceed 19, Sri Lankan Airlines announced yesterday (4).

"Sri Lankan Airlines took delivery of an Airbus A320 aircraft on 8th April, expanding the National Carrier’s fleet to its largest ever size in the country’s history. The airline now has a fleet of 17 aircraft, which include five A320’s, five A330’s, five A340’s, and two De Havilland Twin Otters. This surpasses the 16 aircraft that the airline possessed between 2005 and 2007.

"With plans to acquire four or perhaps even five more aircraft by the end of 2011, Sri Lankan is likely to end the year with a fleet of at least 19 aircraft.

This will include three A320’s which would be the first brand new aircraft to be acquired by Sri Lankan in 11 years. The first of these A320’s is scheduled to arrive in late May, as is a long-haul A340," Sri Lankan Airlines said.

Sri Lankan’s CEO Manoj Gunawardena said, "This is definitely a major landmark in the history of aviation in Sri Lanka, which started 64 years ago in 1947 when Air Ceylon commenced operations using two Douglas DC-4 Skymasters. By the end of 2011, we will possess a fleet of modern aircraft that would position Sri Lankan Airlines to fulfill its role as a catalyst for the country’s economic growth."

Speaking to The Island Financial Review, Gunawardena said the planes were acquired through operating leases.

"These investments are being made despite the negative effects of high fuel prices at the present time due to the political crisis in the Middle East. However, the fact is that Sri Lankan recognizes the need to expand our fleet and our operations in order to capitalize on opportunities in the near future," said Sri Lankan’s CEO.

The latest acquisition is the second aircraft this year, with a De Havilland Twin Otter having arrived a week previously. Another A330 or A340 may be obtained at the end of the year, while two of the airline’s older A320’s are to be returned by mid-year.

"Sri Lankan Airlines is expanding rapidly and making strategic investments in a wide range of operational areas aimed at transforming Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) into a major aviation hub in the region. They include a Full Flight Simulator to train local and foreign pilots; a second hangar for Sri Lankan Engineering’s maintenance programmes for other airlines; vehicles, equipment and facilities for BIA where it is the sole ground handler for all airlines; and continuous enhancements to the Cargo Exports Terminal which was opened last year. The airline’s domestic service Sri Lankan Air Taxi was re-launched last December and is rapidly increasing its number of destinations throughout Sri Lanka," the airline said in a statement.

"With the launch of services to Guangzhou last January and Kochi in March, Sri Lankan now has a global route network that covers 51 cities in 32 countries," it said.

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