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Lionair signs US $ 300,000 Agreement with South African airline company

By Shirajiv Sirimane

Lionair International has invested US $ 300,000 and signed an agreement with a South African airline company to lease a McDonnel Douglas DC-9 Jet aircraft.

According to the Chairman Lionair International Chandran Rutnam this agreement has been signed in view of their proposed international flight operations to Bangladesh (Decca) and Abu Dhabi.

He said that he has got the green light for this from the relevant authorities and the CEO of SriLankan Airlines, Peter Hill too at a meeting on the 10th of July stated that he had no objection to Lionair flying to Dhaka and to Abu Dhabi. "However in a recent media statement he seems to have changed his position."

"By these statements we are taken aback and in the meantime, it is costing Lionair a great expense by having contracted to lease a DC-9 Jet aircraft and establishing a training programme for in-flight and other ground personnel in preparation for the international flights that are set to begin at the end of November this year."

"Why Lionair planned to go forward with its flights to Dhaka in Bangladesh and Sharjah in the UAE, is since both these destinations are not being serviced by Sri Lankan Airlines."

"Today, the Asian airline industry is the fastest growing in the world and competition will be the hallmark of this century for Asia. The established airlines must be aware and get used to the fact that there will be more competition to come. Lionair has decided to take on the challenge to become a regional contender."

He said that when compared to the U.S. or Europe, today Asia has room for even more airlines. "Asian airlines as of now, are operating in a market which is less competitive than North America.

Asia's better demographic and economic fundamentals offer much greater growth potential. Big or small the Asians are expanding their fleets, ground facilities and staff. New airports have been built and are being built, expanded or upgraded."

"In the international arena, the real war would be in fares. Whoever offers the lowest fares with good service will get the business. We keep hearing the SriLankan airlines officials complaining about the close air policy of the Indians and about a global open sky policies. These must work both ways. This attitude, today, would not be described as staid or traditional, but as a lack of confidence and forward thinking.

He said that almost every other Asian country has a second designated carrier that enhances the passenger commitment to their inter-continental flights. "We urge Sri Lankan Airlines to join hands with their other local airlines."

"We are entitled to a share of the lucrative sky bound business and we will confidently stake our claim. With due consideration and respect to the MOUs that we are not privy to, our policy is, "If SriLankan can fly, let them fly, if they don't, then we (Lionair) will fly!". Let's not talk of countries let's talk about airports that are not being serviced."

He that that their next aim would be the introduction of an Airbus 340-300 jet aircraft from Colombo to Melbourne and Colombo to Amsterdam. "Lionair has filed its application with the Director General of Aviation for these destinations that Sri Lankan Airlines does not fly to and does not intend to fly to during the next three years."

(The Chief Executive Officer of SriLankan airlines at a press conference last week said that the airline has objected proposals made by local domestic airlines operators to fly to destinations the national carrier is operating. "We have singed a MoU which clearly state that the only the SriLankan airline has the franchise to operate to the current destinations until the year 2006. However he said that the national carrier has no objection in domestic airlines operating to countries such as Bangladesh where the SriLankan airlines do not fly at any time.)

Lionair, which was the first airline to operate to Jaffna since 1998 operates 11 flights a week and has made over 17,500 flights to Jaffna.

The airline is presently operating a British Aerospace Hawker Siddley 46 seater aircraft with Rolls Royce engines.

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