SriLankan Airlines is to expand by adding two Airbus A340-300s, lifting its fleet to the level it was at before the attack on Colombo airport in July 2001 that destroyed four of its 12 aircraft.

Chief executive Peter Hill says SriLankan expects to add the two A340-300s on operating lease from the start of the winter season in October to help boost long-haul services to Europe and fill in for widebody aircraft requiring maintenance. He will not reveal the source of the A340s to be leased, saying only that they will not be ex-Singapore Airlines (SIA) aircraft. "But that's not to say we won't be interested in those aircraft in the future," says Hill.

SriLankan, 43%-owned by Emirates, has seen its business grow steadily since early last year, when a ceasefire agreement was signed between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil separatists after more than 20 years of civil war. Hill says that because of the strong growth, the carrier was profitable for the year to 31 March.

Two years ago, a rebel attack on Colombo airport destroyed four of SriLankan's aircraft and left two others damaged. The carrier has since added two A320s on lease and its fleet now comprises three A320s, four A330s and three A340s.

Hill says SriLankan is meanwhile seeking additional rights to India and if more services are allowed, another A320 will probably have to be added. Eight cities in India are already served, and the airline wants to add Hyderabad.

SriLankan operates 46 weekly flights to India, accounting for about 20% of total revenue.

The airline also plans to boost services to Europe during its winter season and hopes to launch services to China late next year.

Source: Flight International