The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Destination Sri Lanka for private airlines

New Delhi, Oct. 24: All flight paths seem to lead to the Emerald Island — Sri Lanka.

Jet Airways today formally announced its plans to connect Colombo with Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and possibly Calcutta.

This follows a similar announcement by Air Sahara which said it is ready to provide daily connections to and from Colombo to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Calcutta, Hyderabad and Goa and services to Buddhist tourist points like Sarnath, Bodh Gaya, and Kushinagar.

This follows a government decision earlier this week offering Sri Lanka daily flights by its designated carriers between Colombo and Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Calcutta and also unlimited access for air services to and from 18 tourist destinations in India.

Sri Lanka, in return, has agreed to provide access to all scheduled Indian carriers on its airspace. Currently, only Indian Airlines (IA) operates flights to Colombo.

But the predictable jam over Colombo's skies may be a flash in the pan as most analysts believe there is not enough traffic to “justify the euphoric reaction of the private carriers.”

IA flies seven times out of Chennai and Mumbai, while Air Lanka flies four times out of Delhi and Mumbai and daily from Chennai.

Debasish Chatterjee of CTI Travels said, “There really isn’t enough traffic to Colombo. Except this holiday season, the flights go half-full. If you double the traffic, it means flights will go quarter-full.”

IA officials refused to react to Air Sahara and Jet’s announcements. However, the airline said it would be launching a Jaipur-Delhi-Bangkok-Singapore link. This is in response to Thai Airways move to increase frequency to Chennai.

“There is scope for more flights to the Gulf or south-east Asia, but our private carriers are not yet allowed on these routes. Sri Lanka is not really that great a proposition. Sahara and Jet are following the herd mentality,” said aviation sector analyst Amitabha Roy.

New IA flights

IA and its subsidiary Alliance Air will provide new links, additional capacity and increased frequencies for its winter schedule with effect from October 26.

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