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SriLankan Airlines in rescue flights for China, UK, and Australia in Covid battle

AIRLINE WOES: State-run SriLankan Airlines is among firms badly hit by Coronavirus.

ECONOMYNEXT – SriLankan Airlines which halted scheduled flights to Colombo in April has flown rescue flights for China, UK and Australia, and is also carrying cargo amid a Coronavirus crisis earning some revenues, while cutting costs, Chief Executive Vipula Gunatilleka said.

“We do a lot of special flights not just for Sri Lankans, helping other nationals,” Gunatilleka told an online forum held by Advocata Institute, a Colombo-based think tank.

“For Australia we did a couple of flights, for China, and UK.

“We also do cargo flights.”

All this was brining some cashfow to the airline.

SriLankan has been flying back SriLankans from several countries including Wuhan. This week SriLankan stranded in India, Pakistan and Nepal would be brought back. But most of the fleet is grounded.

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The International Air Transport Association has estimated a revenue loss of 314 billion dollar loss for the year which is a drop of 55 percent passengers.

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“We have spoken to our key lessors and got some concessions in terms of deferrals,” Gunatilleka said.

SriLankan had also cut salaries and deferred increments. Contract outsourced workers had been sent on leave.

The airline is also talking to the government for credit lines he said. Meanwhile oil prices had also fallen.

Lease costs were 40 percent of total costs or 14 million US dollars and staff costs were about 25 percent, or about 7 to 8 million US dollars, he said.

“We have to see how adapt and cut our cost structures to be in competition with the rest of the world. We have internally worked our route map and what are opportunities in the short and medium term,” he said.

India, a key market is closed and there was little data on how it will recover. But North Asia was beginning to recover. In China about 40 percent of the domestic market was active.

Korea and also Vietnam would bounce back, he said.

“Markets like Korea and Japan would bounce back fast, and even places like Vietnam I would think so,” he said.

Vietnam is a perhaps the global leader in the battle against Coronavirus. The country has contact traced from January completely killing the Wave 1 from China along with Sri Lanka and aggressively traced and tested and quarantined over 50,000 visistors keeping cases below Sri Lanka.

The country has had zero new cases for the last five days and zero deaths.

Doctors at the Tropical Diseases Hospital in Hanoi and Choy Ray hospital in Saigon and has worked out an almost foolproof method (so far) to save Coronavirus by keeping them alive long enough with the use of heart-lung machines when ventilators were no longer effective.

Gunatilleka said he expected Europeans to travel by winter as he was an optimist.

“We will look at new markets,” Gunatilleka said. “I hope Australia will bounce back. We are also monitoring Europe. The situation is changing everyday and we have to adapt. (Colombo/Apr21/2020)

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