Sri Lankan Airlines on Wednesday announced it has joined oneworld, a grouping of global airlines, making the national carrier of the island country the first from the Indian subcontinent to join any global airline alliances.
Sri Lankan Airlines becomes the 15th global airline to be part of the oneworld alliance. Airlines such as Airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways are part of oneworld.
The airline has been in talks with oneworld for the past 3 years, according to the officials.
The airline said that it is expecting $25 million of additional revenues per annum with its entry into the alliance. The airline currently operates in 20 countries and 32 destinations with a share of almost 40% of the total in-bound passengers that flew into Sri Lanka last year. Post the alliance, the airline will get an access to 900 destinations.
The airline is also in the process of adding additional aircraft to its fleet. It currently has a pending order of 10 aircraft starting from 2014. It will take deliveries of 4 Airbus A350-900s.
The airline also announced its codeshare with two more oneworld partners – Finnair and S7 Airlines.
Apart from oneworld, the other global alliances include, Star Alliance and Skyteam.
Air India, India's national carrier, is expected to join the biggest grouping, Star Alliance, in the current financial year. Star Alliance recently said that Air India's induction is on track.
When asked if oneworld is looking at adding any Indian carriers, Bruce Ashby, oneworld CEO said, "We had conversations with India earlier. However, as and when we find the right airline to partner, we will announce. But we will certainly look at it."
Now grounded Kingfisher, was slated to become the member of oneworld, which would have made the carrier part of the alliance in the region. However, its entry was put on hold after financial problems plagued the carrier.
"As of now we don't have any gaps in our network. But if we see any airline matching the standards and quality, we will surely consider," he added, when asked if they are in talks with more airlines.
Currently India is the biggest markets for Sri Lankan Airlines in terms of volume while UK is the biggest market in terms of revenues. The airline is also evaluating adding more destinations in India. Currently they have 8 destinations, with about 70 flights per week.
(The correspondent's trip to Hambantota was hosted by Sri Lankan Airlines)