The airline will operate four flights per week from Abu Dhabi to Sri Lanka’s largest city and commercial capital, using an Airbus A320 aircraft.
The resumption of flights follows the recent end to the civil conflict in Sri Lankaand the boost that this is likely to provide to the tourism sector and to the wider economy as a whole. July and August 2009 already witnessed a 30 per cent increase in visitors to the island compared to the same period last year, and the Sri Lankan government is now targeting 2.5 million visitors a year by 2016.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive, said: “Sri Lanka is an established market with a strong local traffic base. We expect the resumption of Etihad flights to be welcomed by the considerable Sri Lankan expatriate community living in the UAE and those living across the Middle East region who will be able to connect quickly and easily back home via Abu Dhabi.
“Colombo will be our first new route launch of 2010, and bring to 58 the number of destinations available across our expanding global network.”
The timing of the flights has been carefully scheduled to facilitate onward connections from a number of key destinations on the airline’s network, including Moscow and North America.
Flight EY266 will depart Abu Dhabi on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 9.55pm and arrive at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airportat at 3.45am the following day. Return flight EY267 will depart Colombo on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 4.45am, arriving in Abu Dhabi at 8.00am the same morning.
Colombo is located on the west coast of the island and close to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, the capital city of Sri Lanka. Due to its large harbour and its strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes, Colombo has a rich sea trading tradition.
Etihad Airways has offered flights to Colombo through its codeshare partner, SriLankan Airlines, since September 2007. Under this agreement, Etihad Airways places its ‘EY’ code on SriLankan Airlines flights between Abu Dhabi and Colombo, and onwards to Male in the Maldives. In turn, SriLankan Airlines ‘UL’ code appears on Etihad Airways flight to Amman, Brussels, Dublin, Geneva, Munich and Manchester.
To coincide with the resumption of Etihad’s Colombo service, Sri Lankan Airlines will now also add its ‘UL’ code on Etihad’s Abu Dhabi-Colombo flights.
Etihad will operate a two-class Airbus A320 to Colombo, configured to carry 140 passengers with 20 seats in business class and 120 in economy class.– (Travel News Gazette)