SriLankan, Lufthansa Technik MRO JV in limbo

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SriLankan Airlines' discussions with Lufthansa Technik to jointly set up an MRO operation appear to have met with some road blocks, with the carrier now saying it will go ahead with its MRO plans with or without a partner.

"Lufthansa has certain requirements in the European Union, they are a European MRO. We have certain requirements, we're looking at the regional market, mainly India, South East Asia and possibly some middle eastern points," SriLankan's chief executive Kapila Chandrasena tells reporters on the sidelines of its Oneworld joining ceremony last week.

“So there are certain dynamics we need to understand. They’re studying the case, we’re committed, we’re progressing. If there are no partners, we will progress on our own.”

Chandrasena adds that besides Lufthansa Technik, the airline has also been in talks with "many MRO providers" about a possible joint venture.

The plan is for the new MRO facility to be based at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport and focus on third party maintenance works. The facility will have four bays to accommodate narrowbody aircraft such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.

Chandrasena says the hangar's design has been completed and the target is to finish construction by next September. The airline also plans to have an aviation campus at the airport, which will provide technical and flight training.

SriLankan already has an MRO operation at Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport which does line and base maintenance and component support and repairs. The plan, however, is to increase the volume of work by securing more third party customers. The facility now spends 70% of its time maintaining SriLankan's fleet, but the target is to eventually have 80% of its workload attributed to third party clients.

“We have an anchor customer - Indigo, and we’re talking to a lot of other LCCs and airlines that operate narrowbody aircraft,” says Kapila.

Last August, Chandrasena shared in a presentation that it will be partnering with Lufthansa Technik to start an MRO facility at the Mattala airport. The presentation added that the joint venture’s set-up will be according to the Lufthansa Technik base maintenance business model, and that operations should start by July 2014.