Sri Lankan Aviation Industry domestic carriers-a growth area


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SRI LANKA (COMMONWEALTH UNION) – Most countries have national carriers that are used for international air travel and have landing rights all over the world or agreements with other air lines as connecting air lines in case landing right are not procured.

Now apart from these large national carriers’ countries also have national smaller carriers that operate ideally within the country. If we take Sri Lanka, for an example, there are not one but multiple internal carriers. Starting off with the internal carrier that is run by the air force which is called Heli Tours.

Heli Tours

Helitours has been around for a long time. They have multiple bases and a decent fleet. This company was founded in 1972 by initiative of the Air Chief Marshall at the time Deshamanya Paddy Mendis. This was done so that the forces could contribute to building the tourism industry and help the country to start internal flying at a low cost.

This went over really well and Helitours was doing really well with the starting 2 bases which were Katunayake and Ratmalana. But in the end of that year the Marshal had managed to expand the operations to over 8 more bases all over the country and even do flights to Male, the Moldavian capital.

The flights to Male were a huge achievement as the carrier was not the national carrier but as a small carrier. It was doing really well. Of course, with the outbreak of the conflict, the flights to Male were, soon, stopped as these aircrafts were still purchased and owned by the Air Force.

Even today, one could go to the Helitours office and purchase tickets according to the schedule that is presented by the office and make arrangements to fly to the destinations offered.

Cinnamon Air

With the success of Helitours John Keells decided to enter the market of internal flying and came out with the privatized version of Helitours which was called Cinnamon Air. It comes under the umbrella Saffron Aviation. Initially, there was a dedicated terminal at the Bandaranaike International Airport for Cinnamon air to operate out of. The terminal was taken under the Saffron Aviation name as it was the company that John Keels created for cinnamon air.

The operations started in July 2013 as a joint venture between John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH), MMBL Leisure Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., and Phoenix Ventures Limited. It has to be noted that Cinnamon air whilst not having an impressive fleet still has four impressive hubs. There are 10 active hubs all over the island.

Whilst one would spend a little more on a Cinnamon Air flight than they would on a Helitours flight this was seen as a normality as Cinnamon air is a privately owned entity. Cinnamon Air was the first to offer a sea plane option in Sri Lankan for internal flying. This became very popular as it was sold more or less as an experience to the guest that used the airline for travel.

All in all, this was not bad start for the Sri Lankan aviation industry as the internal flying became popular after the end of the conflict and the tourism sector took off. The long drives to destination so beautiful could now be flown to and enjoyed for longer.

The internal flights were booming and the sector was slowly picking up. The aviation authorities were happy with the progress and is still doing whatever they can to help the airlines to make adjustments for the better.

There is a bright future for the aviation sector and for the domestic flight as Sri Lanka continues to grow in the tourism world.


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