Jet Airways to spread its wings in Sri Lanka

Thursday, 11 November 2010 00:12 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Cheranka Mendis from Delhi

India’s premier international airline Jet Airways has placed its vote of confidence in Sri Lanka’s economic prosperity, claiming that mammoth development would be witnessed in the economy within the next five years.

The airline, which expanded its connectivity to Colombo last week with daily flights to Delhi and Mumbai in addition to the Colombo-Chennai double daily service initiated in 2004, is now eyeing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries to further its growth.

Sri Lanka, part and parcel of the group, is an important market for the airline as a country that can carry traffic globally. The Colombo Chennai flight was the first attempt of an international flight from Jet Airlines which operated as a domestic carrier for years.

Speaking to Daily FT, Vice President of International Relations and Internal Affairs of Jet Airways P.K. Sinha asserted that the airline was now looking at expanding operations with Sri Lanka as the country was getting ready to move on from the debris of war.

“Expansion is the idea. The first step was taken with the inauguration of the Colombo to Delhi and Mumbai flights on the auspicious Deepavali day. With Deepavali being celebrated on a large scale in India we did not expect the demand for the first flight to be so great but we are happy to announce that the flight to the commercial city of Bombay flew at full capacity while the Delhi flight flew at 65 per cent,” Sinha stated.

The airline has always been keen on increasing its frequencies with Sri Lanka but has been held back by the Indian Government for the past two years due to the problems in Northern Sri Lanka. Now that peace has finally arrived, the aviation sector will be on a roll.

“Aviation as an industry starts to flourish with peace and prosperity. Being one of the prime movers of an economy, aviation is the first industry that is hit when there are internal clashes in a country,” he said.

The sky is now the limit for Sri Lankan aviation backed by gaining popularity as a leisure destination. Now that peace is here to stay prosperity will follow. The change in mindset from a war torn economy to a developing one would be about many opportunities for the country while the country could expect to achieve massive growth within the next five years.

“Sri Lanka will be among the top leaders in the SAARC region within the next few years,” Sinha asserted.

He added that the airline is looking at developing partnership with SriLankan airlines and add expansions such as wide bed aircrafts to its portfolio. “If the demand and the market grows as we expect, it is bound to attract a large number of travellers from all over the world, especially from India.”

If the country markets itself properly as a niche market, making Sri Lanka the destination to travel to, attracting more would be a simple task, he said. “It would be easy to switch from destinations such as Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong. Sri Lanka offers more.”

What is now important is to develop not only the outbound but the inbound market as well, Sinha asserted, adding that it would be more beneficial for the country. He said that the ‘visa on arrival’ facility offered by Sri Lanka was an additional attraction for the tourists.

Jet Airways, which has had a good year so far, is now concentrating on strategically entering the SAARC market, which will be the future of Asia. Sinha claimed that when three years ago the founder Chairman of Jet Airways Naresh Goyal told the company heads that they needed to look at SAARC, everyone was taken by surprise.

“He had a long term plan and what he saw then is true today. Our aim is to develop SAARC in a way so that the airline and connect the entire region by its presence.”

The airline, which flies to 67 destinations, operates the maximum number of flights per day to the SAARC region. Also targeting to develop its regional presence, Jet Airlines flies to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka. On Pakistan, Sinha stated that the airline would wait for more stability in the political front before entering the country’s skies.

The next flight taking off from Jet Airlines is the Delhi-Milan flight on 5 December this year.