Sri Lankan Airlines has its sights set on the Australian market, announcing today it plans to launch a non-stop daily service to Melbourne starting October 29 this year.

Taking approximately 10 hours, the flights will be among the longest in terms of duration flown by the airline. Operated by Sri Lankan’s A330-200, each flight will feature a business class with 18 seats (economy class seat numbers vary by configuration) with a 2-2-2 set-up and 77 to 79 inches of pitch each.

The new route targets a key market that Sri Lankan has had its eye on for a while, not least because of the area’s large Sri Lankan population.

“According to 2011 census data, Victoria is home to 50 per cent of Australia’s Sri Lankan population and we are pleased to host a regular service to connect people globally,” said Melbourne Airport chief of aviation, Simon Gandy.

Sri Lankan will be hoping these potential regular travellers will result in a lucrative service, something the airline is in serious need of following recent financial difficulties. This notably resulted in the cancellation of its lease of four A350s last year – a decision that set the airline back US$170 million. Last year, Sri Lankan also began leasing out four of its A330-300s as part of a measure to recoup losses.

Despite this, the airline managed to break records for the number of passengers carried over the 2016/2017 financial year, seeing higher passenger numbers than any other year in its history. That said, its financial woes have not dissipated, with the airline reporting an un-audited net group loss of US$15.12 million for the year – up from the US$3.15 billion recorded the previous year but notably less than its budgeted deficit for the year.

Last year, Sri Lankan also integrated the operations of low-cost carrier Mihin Lanka – which was discontinued following its own financial difficulties last October – into its own network.

“Our presence in Australia cements the long-standing relationship between our two countries,” said the airline’s CEO, Suren Ratwatte. “We recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our nations, and the addition of Melbourne signifies our strategy of optimising the airline’s network in line with our restructuring.

“This also means that we have connected another continent to our global route map. On the other hand, given the number of Sri Lankans residing in and around Victoria, we have fulfilled a long-felt need for a direct service.”

The non-stop route will be complemented by Sri Lankan’s existing double-daily connectivity via Singapore and Kuala Lumpur through Qantas and Malaysia Airlines codeshares.