SriLankan optimistic for 2021

SriLankan Cargo, the air freight arm of SriLankan Airlines is looking at expanding towards the latter part of the year in 2021 post-pandemic. Chamara Ranasinghe, Head of Cargo, SriLankan Airlines speaks to CARGOTALK about their vision and plans.

Shehara Rizly

Do give us a brief about Sri Lankan Airlines Cargo operations.

Our vision is to be the preferred global air cargo hub, connecting Sri Lanka to the world. SriLankan Cargo is the air freight arm of SriLankan Airlines and the entity has continuously supported the country’s fast-growing export market, while catering to the air freight demands throughout the SriLankan Airlines network. Due to its strategic position in the Indian Ocean, SriLankan Cargo is able to provide convenient connections to its global route network of 200 destinations with global partners in 84 countries in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, the Far East and the Indian sub-continent.

The airline presently operates from its hub located at Bandaranaike International Airport in Sri Lanka. The cargo division historically accounted for 10 per cent of the total air traffic revenue generated through the sale of cargo belly capacity on the passenger aircraft fleet of 24 Airbus aircraft.

What are the most prominent destinations for cargo operations by SriLankan Airlines?

Some of the most prominent destinations include the Middle East with Dubai, Riyadh and Doha. In Europe destinations include London, Frankfurt and Milan with Far East connecting Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing and in the Indian subcontinent, destinations include Male, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Lahore, Karachi, Dhaka.

Is there a specially dedicated area for cargo operations only for SriLankan Airlines?

The present cargo terminal facilities do not have a dedicated cargo operations area for handling UL cargo due to the handling capacity congestions. However, SriLankan Cargo intends to pursue the same with the development of the new terminal cargo imports terminal in 2023.

How does SriLankan Airlines handle cargo as against so many other players in the market?

SriLankan Cargo ensures dynamism in meeting the demands of the market in relation to sales and pricing strategies, a necessity in competing with the larger scale carriers.

Last year was different due to the pandemic; how did SriLankan Airlines Cargo operations fare?

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, SriLankan Airlines maintains a dedicated cargo network of 26 destinations utilizing largely the passenger widebody fleet of aircraft, including the introduction of operations into key cargo markets Frankfurt and Milan in Europe as well as Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City and Sydney in the Far East. SriLankan Airlines was also the only airline to maintain uninterrupted operations to the Island nations Maldives, in connecting the much needed medical supplies, relief good and perishable cargo for local consumption. The airline also undertook over 150 cargo charters since April 2020, connecting medical supplies and industrial raw materials for facilitating manufacturing industries. The airline converted an A330-200 aircraft to a fully cargo converted operation with the removal of passenger seats, which is in operation for charters and scheduled routes to Dubai, Male, Chennai, Mumbai, Hong Kong and Karachi.

What are the plans and initiatives for 2021 and how will SriLankan Airlines promote its cargo operations further?

SriLankan Airlines intends to expand its cargo vertical through the inclusion of a freighter into the UL fleet by winter 2021 in servicing the base market demands for exports into Europe as well as capitalising on the global cargo market demands connecting the Far East, India, Europe and the Middle East.