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SriLankan Airlines all set to spread its wings in the Middle East

By: Staff Writer

June 24, Colombo (LNW): SriLankan Airlines will spread its wings across the Middle East region after acquiring more aircraft on lease this year to strengthen its fleet, its top official says.

Richard Nuttall, chief executive officer of SriLankan Airlines, said fleet modernisation plays an important role in the carrier’s turnaround as well as caters to growing passenger demand in the region.

He said the airline will strengthen its current fleet of 21 to 22 in July, with plans to add three more aircraft within the next three months to increase the tally to 25 aircraft this year.

“We are aiming to boost SriLankan Airlines fleet with more leased aircraft that will help increase frequency on existing routes as well as add two or three new routes.

The airline will place major orders for fleet replacement after its restructuring is completed under the International Monetary Funds (IMF) programme,” Nuttall told Khaleej Times during his recent visit to Dubai.

Nuttall was in Dubai to attend the International Air Transport Association’s 80th annual general meeting and World Air Transport Summit in Dubai. He joined SriLankan Airlines as the chief commercial officer in November 2021 and was promoted to the position of chief executive officer in April 2022.

Nuttall, an industry veteran, has a wealth of airline industry experience spanning three decades and five continents, having held multiple chief officer and board positions in aviation companies across the globe. He has previously worked for Saudiair.

Bahrain Air, Royal Jordanian, Kenyan Airways and Philippine Airlines, has an exceptional record of delivering performance improvement and driving sustainable growth.

“I’m confident of rosy outlook of SriLankan as it continues to make significant strides in the airline industry despite a challenging environment. We’ve been focusing on strategic initiatives to improve the airline’s operations, enhance customer experience, and expand its global reach with the addition of new aircraft this year,” Nuttall said.

The 57-year-old chief executive from Yorkshire, England, expertise includes airline turnarounds; restructuring; strategy development; mentoring; global leadership; revenue management; network planning; airline distribution and sales and digital strategy.

Nuttall said the privatisation of SriLankan is a part of the country’s IMF programme under which its balance sheet will be improved by restructuring the airline’s debt.

“The government is working on a comprehensive strategy to support the airline through debt restructuring and then find a suitable buyer. It is a time-taking process and I’m unable to give any time frame when it will be completed,” he said.

In reply to a question, he said the government has shortlisted three potential investors out of six candidates who submitted their expressions of interest in April.

“The government is now talking to three shortlisted companies and we’ll see what happens in coming months. One of the consortium involves Qatari [Not Qatar Airways] and Indian investors who are keen to buy a majority stake in SriLankan Airlines,” he said.

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