SriLankan Airlines is suspending all operations for nearly two weeks in what it describes as “bleak times” and the biggest challenge in its 40-year operating history.

The Colombo-based carrier plans to halt all regularly scheduled passenger flights between 8 April and 21 April, with the exception of cargo and repatriation flights. This is due to coronavirus related travel restrictions governments have put it place at destinations to which the airline operates. However, SriLankan says it could resume services earlier if the situation changes.

Cirium schedules data show that the airline flew to 36 destinations from its base at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International in March.

The company says it is “constantly reviewing the market conditions and the restrictions imposed by the various authorities and will be ready to recommence its operations at short notice even before the 21st April 2020, in the event such restrictions are lifted”.

“Despite various challenges faced by the airline throughout its four-decade tenure, this is by far the most difficult and unfortunate period that the airline is passing, similar to all its counterparts across the globe and communities in general”.

It adds: “As done in the past and ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, the airline has been fulfilling its duty as the national carrier by reaching out to fellow Sri Lankans seeking passage home and uplifting essential items such as medical aid. The airline is fully prepared to steer any national endeavour expected of it, thus playing its role in Sri Lanka’s efforts to combat Covid-19.”

Among the Asia-Pacific flag carriers, SriLankan Airlines operates a relatively small fleet of just 26 aircraft, including Airbus A320 family aircraft and A330 widebodies, though every single one of those aircraft is leased. Major lessors AerCap, Air Lease and Avolon are the most exposed, while three other smaller lessors have a more limited exposure.