With tourism arrivals expected to climb to record levels this winter, the domestic airline segment is the next growth sector of the economy, travel experts predict.
Deccan Aviation, the country’s only privately owned domestic airline has announced the commencement of a helicopter shuttle service from the international airport in a move timed before the launch of Sri Lankan’s own air taxi operations.
“We have been virtually the sole internal air option for tourists and investors for the past several years and the launch of the heli shuttle service from the international airport is for the expected influx of visitors in the months ahead. We are very excited at being able to offer our guests our services on a per seat fare basis for the first time and will be the first helicopter scheduled service in the country,” said the company in a statement.
‘The daily double service’ will link the international airport with any destination in the south coast from 15 October 2010 with two daily flights.
“What is unique about our daily double scheduled operations is that, unlike other scheduled operations, the actual destination where you will land in the schedule is determined by the client, not by the operator,” explained Denham Schokman, Director, Deccan Aviation.
Elaborating on the objectives of introducing the new scheduled operations, Schokman stated that it aims to introduce more flexibility and popularise air travel in Sri Lanka. It will also allow passengers to enjoy and spend more time at their destination, thereby improving efficiency and augmenting their travel experience.
“Helicopters offer a utility unmatched by any kind of plane, and what this means for the passenger is a drop exactly at their hotel or project site, and not at a place requiring a further trip by road.”
The twice daily schedule will depart from the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) at 6:30 a.m. and 15:30 p.m., and return to the airport at 10:20 a.m. and 18:30 p.m., respectively, while stopping at various destinations on the southern coast including Bentota, Galle and Tangalle.
Deccan is Sri Lanka’s only airline with the approval to fly both fixed wing and helicopters, over the past six years, Deccan has flown both the leisure and corporate travellers to various destinations across the country including regional charters to destinations such as Maldives and India. The operator already boasts of 180 established helipads all over Sri Lanka, with the newest entrant to its list of destinations being Colombo 6.
In addition to the scheduled operations, it is understood that Deccan will continue to fly on charter to other destinations in the country.
Further enhancing the services offered by Deccan, a second helicopter will be inducted in the future, while December will see the arrival of a new eight-seater aircraft, GA8, to Sri Lanka. “We hope to adopt the same strategy and operate scheduled services using the GA8 aircraft, not only to the coastal destinations, but to other parts of the country, like Jaffna, Trincomalee and Ampara,” Denham stated.