SriLankan rises above its frustrations

Things are not easy for SriLankan Cargo as it suffers terrorist attacks, competition in its key Indian market, facility delays and uncertainties about its parent carrier's future strategy. But it still managed to clock up an 11 percent rise in cargo revenues last year, as Peter Conway reports.

Having seen half of its aircraft destroyed on the ground by the Tamil Tigers one terrible night in July 2001, SriLankan Airways knows all too well about coping with terrorists attacks. But recently there have been a few brief years when it thought all thatbehind it.

Following the 2001 attacks, the carrier managed to rebuild its fl eet, and though it didn’t return to all its former longhaul routes, it was looking forward to a profi table and stable future. But with the truce between the Tigers and the Sri Lankan government now over, violent action once again indirectly affectedthe airline earlier this year.

On 26 March the Tigers bombed the military air fi eld adjacent to Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport using a light aircraft, and in later April they repeated the attack. Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority responded by imposing a night time curfew at Bandaranaike, banning allfl ights between 10pm and 5am.

That was a major headache for SriLankan, since all of its European fl ights and around half of its Asian fl ights were timed to depart at midnight, in order to make early morningconnections at their destinations.

The schedule had to be completely re-jigged, and while all frequencies were maintained, it damaged the passenger business, for example making same-day connections with the US via European airports impossible. For cargo, there was good news and bad news, with Nalin Rodrigo, head of cargo for SriLankan saying connection times between regional and longhaul fl ights were reduced from six or sevenhours to three or four.