Reviving Sri Lanka’s Air Travel Amid COVID

By D.V.Chanaka (State Minister of Aviation and Export Zones Development) | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 19 2021

By D.V.Chanaka (State Minister of Aviation and Export Zones Development) 

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, daily life across the globe has transformed with unprecedented shocks in the global economy, trade, and mobility. All facets of our socioeconomic activities were disrupted, creating many challenges for the leaders. Air transport has lingered as one of the hardest-hit global industries. 

The economic, social, and health repercussions for the aviation sector are far-reaching and the pandemic will impinge on the aviation industry for years to come. After a decade of steady and strong growth in global passenger traffic, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic brought airports around the world to a virtual halt after the second quarter of 2020. The flowing graph depicts the lasting adverse impact of the COVID-19 crisis on aviation. 

ACI (Airport Council International) World’s Director General has stated “the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on global passenger traffic brought aviation to a virtual standstill in 2020, and continue to face an existential threat.” ACI has stated that passenger numbers are expected to be 47.3 per cent down by the end of 2021 compared to 2019 and predicted that global traffic may take up to two decades to return to previously projected levels. 

However, with the aggressive efforts in vaccinating the populations currently, many countries have publicised positive signals of the gradual reopening of the economies. With the help of the Government of Sri Lanka, AASL has taken the initiative to vaccinate the employees working at the airport to safeguard employees as well as offer a better assurance to our passengers. As a result of moving away from lockdowns and opening the international borders, international air travel restrictions also eased partially or totally. 

Less disruptive restrictions have been placed on air travel to limit infections while promoting safe travel. Subsequently, as many countries ease off their travel restrictions, Sri Lanka is also experiencing an increase in passenger numbers compared to the last few months, as the airlines are keen on resuming scheduled operations and more passengers are expected to return to travel. 

These positive signs are directed towards a surge in air travel demand for the second half of the year though international passenger traffic remained weak in the first half of 2021. Meanwhile, as a new addition to the airlines operating scheduled flights, Air France and Swiss International Air Lines will commence their direct flights to Sri Lanka. Air France will commence its operations from 5 November 2021 and it has planned to bring tourists from the regions such as Europe, the USA, Canada, Central America, and South America using its network and the services of joint-venture partners such as Delta Air Lines, from the USA and Virgin Atlantic, from the UK. Swiss International Air Lines will commence its operations from 5 November 2021 connecting Sri Lanka with Switzerland. It has announced two weekly flights between Colombo and Zürich. In addition to that, at present, there are several other new arilines negotiating with us to commence operations to Sri Lanka in the winter season. 

We are excited to see the support given by the existing and the new airlines to revive the country’s aviation industry as well as the tourism industry.

By D.V.Chanaka (State Minister of Aviation and Export Zones Development) | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 19 2021

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