Sri Lankan Airlines plans flights to Buddhist spots

PTI, Jan 24, 2007

Mumbai, India -- Sri Lankan Airlines today said it had held discussions with the Indian tourism department with regard to commencing flights to popular Buddhist destinations such as Bodh Gaya.

"We had discussions last week with the Indian tourism authorities and Bodhgaya definitely figures in our expansion plans in India," Manoj Gunawardena, Head of Worldwide Passenger Sales, SriLankan Airlines, told reporters here.

The island nation's national carrier also had rights to fly to 18 new Tier-II Indian cities, he said, adding Buddhism tourism was very important in the region.

"We are discussing with tour operators to come up with a business plan for Bodhgaya (in Bihar) and if all goes well, we may begin a flight there next year," Gunawardena said.

Elaborating on other plans, Gunawardena said the airlines hopes to have 100 flights into India by the year-end.

Beginning February 2, the airline will be launching two flights a day to Mumbai, bringing the number of its flights throughout India to 94.

"We have progressively raised our flights into India from 67 in 2005 to 85 in 2006 to 94 this year," he said.

On the proposed Mumbai flights, Gunawardena said there was tremendous demand for both passenger and cargo traffic from Mumbai "which we are unable to meet, hence the launch of the new flights."

While the average load factor of the airline in India was in the high 70s, there were periods when it was in the high 80s from Mumbai, he claimed, adding there was immense potential in cargo transportation as well.