SriLankan Airlines closes in on return to profitability

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SriLankan Airlines is closing in on a return to profitability after driving down losses for its 2010-11 financial year to Sri Lankan rupees (SLRs) 202 million ($1.83 million), as compared with a deficit of SLRs6 billion a year earlier.

The airline said it is targeting a return to profitability "within two years".

Nishantha Wickremasinghe, chairman of SriLankan Airlines, said the carrier "came out of the global recession by transforming itself and investing heavily - to secure the future of the national carrier and in supporting the nation's economic growth".

The Sri Lankan government has agreed to invest $500 million in developing the flag carrier over the next five years, which "brings a tremendous responsibility on the airline to deliver on the expectations of our nation," said Wickremasinghe.

The government recently bought out Emirates Airline's shares in the carrier, taking its holding to 94.68%, with the remaining 5.32% held by employees.

"The overall objectives in the year ahead will be to increase the quantum of revenue through high yielding business activities and bring SriLankan Airlines' financial performance to a level of profitability. At the same time, the airline will serve as a leading partner to our nation's economic growth," said Kapila Chandrasena, SriLankan's CEO.

The airline carried 2.87 million passengers in 2010/11, an increase of 12% from the previous year's 2.56 million.

The carrier's ancillary businesses will "complement our air transport operations and provide additional revenue streams to strengthen revenue and profitability," said Chandrasena.

The airline's strategy includes expanding its route network, growing its aircraft fleet, enhancing customer service, expanding domestic carrier SriLankan Air Taxi, extending SriLankan Cargo's network and hub operations, developing SriLankan Ground Handling's facilities at Bandaranaike International Airport, expanding SriLankan Engineering's aircraft maintenance facilities, adding to training facilities for external students and expanding catering operations for new and existing airline customers.

Group revenue for the financial year was at SLRs78.5 billion, as compared with SLRs63.4 billion in the previous year. Total passenger revenue rose by 25%, or SLRs12 billion. Overall seat load factor during the year was stable at 76.79%, down from the 77.93% recorded a year earlier.