SriLankan sets sights on China-Africa traffic

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SriLankan is planning a series of additions to its network that it hopes will increase its position as a network carrier, especially between China and Africa.

The airline plans to start a thrice weekly Colombo-Hong Kong-Seoul Incheon service by early January, says Lal Perera, the airline's head of worldwide sales.

It currently serves Hong Kong on a Colombo-Bangkok-Hong Kong route pattern, but the Hong Kong leg will be dropped when the new service begins. Flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou will continue via the Bangkok route, says Perera.

The airline is also studying the possibility of adding Chengdu to its Chinese network and the increasing of the frequency of other services, he adds. SriLankan now has 18 weekly flights into China.

In Africa, SriLankan is looking into the possibility of flying to Johannesburg in South Africa and Nairobi in Kenya. Other destinations in Africa could also be on the cards.

"We strongly believe that when we increase the frequency of services to East Asia, we need to provide connections to the points where the passengers from those places want to go to. They are not just flying to Sri Lanka, they are going to other places from Colombo," says Perera.

"Chinese companies have a lot of business interests in Africa and there is a lot of demand for connections to cities in the continent. Sri Lanka is economically close to China and we are geographically close to Africa. We can serve both of them."

The airline also plans to increase the frequency of services to Saudi Arabia, where there are a lot of Sri Lankan and Indian migrant workers, in December. Services to Riyadh will increase from thrice to five times weekly, services to Dammam will increase from three to four times weekly and Jeddah services will increase from twice to thrice weekly, says Perera.

"We will align our network and the flight times so that we can also cater to the demand from India for these services," says Perera.

SriLankan could also fly directly to Australia via Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, but it is studying this closely to see if it is viable, he adds. SriLankan is connected to points in Australia only through a codeshare agreement with Malaysian Airlines.