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Two private Indian Airlines fly to Colombo

by Shirajiv Sirimane

Two leading Indian domestic airline operators, Sahara Air and Jet Air commenced their operations from Chennai to Colombo from Monday. This is the first Indian private airline to fly to Sri Lanka.

The initiative in this regard was taken by Sri Lanka, four months ago. This would increase the passenger movement by nearly 90 percent. There were 80,000 travellers and now we estimate that over 150,000 would travel between India and Sri Lanka.

With two private airline operators invading the market the price war would start and there is likely to be a drop in the airfares. Already SriLankan airlines have advertised Chennai with a reduced fare.

Two Indian operators offering special introductory fare are expected to fly cheaper than the two national airlines of India and Sri Lanka.

The open sky policy will have a major positive impact on the Indian aviation industry and the airlines are expecting the highest growth this year. Only one percent of the Indians travel by air and this is bound to increase. Destinations such as Nepal and Bangladesh, far off from Colombo, would now come even closer.

Both operators would launch Mumbai and Bangalore in the second phase of their international operations and would subsequently connect Indian Buddhist circuits with Colombo.

Over 80 percent of Indian travellers are tourists while 20 percent are business travels.

Meanwhile in a another significant development Air Arabia, which bills itself as the Middle East's first low-cost airline, operate a twice-weekly from Sudan to Colombo.

Arabia, a Sharjah government-owned airline, launched services at the end of October and currently flies from the Gulf Emirate to Bahrain, Beirut, Damascus and Aleppo, Kuwait, Muscat, Alexandria and Assyut, Doha, Colombo, Shiraz and Tehran.

In addition Etihad Airways, the national carrier of United Arab Airways has selected Colombo as their fourth international destination. The airline is now operating thrice weekly flights from Abu Dhabi to Colombo.

The airline operates to Beruit, Oman and the Middle Eastern sectors. Etihad Airways Area Manager, Sri Lanka and Maldives, Kumara De Silva said that the airline hopes to expand their network to Cairo, Munich,

Etihad Airways was established in July 2003 by decree of the UAE government, at a time when the airline industry was going through a difficult phase.

These two airlines are offering attractive rates and it is expected that the rates to the Middle East sector would come down.

Meanwhile there is also speculation that there is going to be a 15% airfare hike from end of April in some sectors.

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