NICHOLAS IONIDES / SINGAPORE
SriLankan Airlines is effectively to become the national carrier of the Maldives by launching services to three points from the capital Male.
The Colombo-based carrier says it will introduce non-stop services this month between Male and London, Tokyo and Zurich.
Tokyo services were due to begin on 2 September using Airbus A330-200s, while A340-operated London services begin on 5 September and A330-operated Zurich flights begin on 15 September.
The Maldives counts tourism as its biggest industry, but has been without a national airline since Air Maldives shut down last year after a disastrous expansion attempt.
Under the expansion, Air Maldives was to have added three leased Airbus A310s for use on an ambitious network upgrade that was to have incorporated new routes to Bangkok, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, London and Paris.
Only one of the aircraft was delivered and the airline, 51%-owned by the Maldivian Government and 49%-owned by Malaysia's Naluri, halted services early this year. A new carrier, Island Aviation Services, was later established by the government to operate domestic flights.
SriLankan Airlines says the Maldive Government and tourist authority have "enthusiastically welcomed" the carrier's move to operate services through Male.
The carrier is seeking new markets for business following the attack by the Tamil Tigers on 24 July which destroyed four of its 12 Airbus aircraft and damaged two others. SriLankan has since seen a sharp decline in business. An A340 damaged in the attack was due to have re-entered service on 1 September and a damaged A320 on 5 September.
Sri Lanka's Government has meanwhile waived landing charges for cargo aircraft or passenger aircraft carrying more than 150 passengers at Bandaranaike Airport in a bid to attract more foreign carriers. Charges had previously been waived only for aircraft carrying more than 200 passengers. The new scheme will apply until the end of the year.
Source: Flight International