Turbulent times for private domestic airlines | Sunday Observer

Turbulent times for private domestic airlines

Private domestic airline operations in the country are going through turbulent times due to the sharp drop in flight loads as the number of bookings has plummeted since the outbreak of the killer virus early this year, domestic airline operators said. Cinnamon Air, Chief Executive Officer/Accountable Manager Sean Dwight said their bookings have dropped by around 40 percent during the first two months this year compared to the corresponding months last year.

“Around 90 percent of our business is from international markets. A situation of this nature is a major blow to our operations,” Dwight said, adding that the hotel industry could resort to other options such as tapping the local holiday makers but not the airline operations which rely on foreign travellers. He said travellers on their flights are mainly from Western Europe, USA and Australia.

Cinnamon Air is the only domestic airline that provides connections by way of scheduled flights from BIA to key tourist destinations across the country.

“We operate around 80-100 flights a week and to-date have transported around 70,000 passengers on scheduled and charter flights,” Dwight said. The company operates three, eight-seater aircraft of which two are amphibian. Cinnamon Air scheduled flights operate in code share with SriLankan Airlines.

It is owned and operated by Saffron Aviation (Pvt) Limited, a joint venture between John Keells Holdings PLC, MMBL Leisure Holdings (a part of the Mercantile Merchant Bank Group) and Phoenix Ventures (parent of the Brandix Group, Sri Lanka’s largest garment manufacturer).

Cinnamon Air also offers charter services to and between all Airports and Water Aerodromes in Sri Lanka. Fits Aviation (Pvt) Limited, Deputy CEO Asitha Ranaweera said there had been a satisfactory number of bookings until last week but since then there has been a drop of around 10 percent from Europe.

“We operate a 12-seater aircraft to Batticaloa and a 70-seater to Jaffna,” he said adding that the company has no plans to cut down on schedules.

Sri Lanka Air Force Acting Director, Media, Dushan Wijesinghe said their operations have not been affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus and added that it operates its scheduled flights three times a week to Palali via China Bay. SLAF operates a 52-seater aircraft for local and international travellers.In the global travel arena a large number of flights have been cancelled as they battle to cope with a slump in demand.

Ryanair said it would stop services to and from Italy this week until April 8, with BA scrapping its routes until April 4 as the country goes into lockdown.

EasyJet has cancelled all of its flights to and from Italy between March 10 and April 3.

Norwegian Air has also said it will cut about 3,000 flights in the next three months, about 15% of its capacity. British Airways has cancelled all its Italy routes until April 4. American Airlines is cutting 7.5% of its domestic flights in April.

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