Starting from July 15, oneworld member designate Sri Lankan Airlines will expand its services to Beijing and Shanghai to daily, to serve an increasing number of Chinese tour groups and business travellers visiting Colombo as well as other destinations connected by the carrier through the Sri Lankan capital.
Connection between Colombo and Beijing via Bangkok will increase from thrice weekly to daily. The new service operates on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with an Airbus A332, in addition to the existing flights operated with an Airbus A343 on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The added flights depart Colombo’s Bandaranaike airport at 1420 and arrive in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi at 1920, and then take off from Bangkok at 2025 to arrive in Beijing Capital airport at 0020 the following day. The return leg on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, departs Beijing at 0340 and arrives in Bangkok at 0750, before taking off again at 0900 for 1055 arrival in Colombo.
Flights from Colombo to Shanghai Pudong via Bangkok will increase from four times weekly to daily. The new service runs on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, also with an Airbus A332, in addition to the existing flights flown with an Airbus A343 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The added flights depart Bandaranaike at 1420 to arrive at Suvarnabhumi at 1920, and then take off again from Bangkok at 2025 to arrive in Shanghai Pudong airport at 0150 the day after. The return flight operates on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, departing Shanghai at 0555 to touch down in Bangkok at 0920, and departing for Colombo at 1040 for 1235 arrival.
With the increased service, the airline has 21 flights per week to four cities in China, including four to Guangzhou and three to Hong Kong.
The number of Chinese travellers to Sri Lanka is still small, but it is rapidly increasing as the political situation in the island nation stabilises and more investors from China are finding their way there. Last year, there was a 56 per cent rise in arrivals to Sri Lanka from China, to a total of 16,000. Earlier this year, Nalaka Godahewa, chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, was quoted in Lanka Business Online saying that the country aimed to get 300,000 Chinese visitors by 2016, against the total target of two million.
Dimuthu Tennakoon, regional manager for the Asia Pacific, said he hoped the increased service would attract transit business: "We also have excellent connections to our destinations in Europe and the Middle East, which offer convenience for travelers from those regions to visit China and vice versa." He also named Male in the Maldives as the destination that is to benefit from more frequency on this route. The archipelago in the Indian Ocean has in recent years become a popular holiday destination for affluent Chinese travellers and Colombo is one of preferred stopovers for reaching Male.
Nishantha Wickremasinghe, chairman of Sri Lankan Airlines, pointed out that China and Sri Lanka are “historically friendly” and that he believes “there is a tremendous amount of potential for the future.”
For a story about Colombo’s boom in recent years, click here.
For more information, visit www.srilankan.com.
Michelle Fong and Reggie Ho