Sri Lankan eyes Nairobi flights


(Posted 08th August 2013)

Information was confirmed through a statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Transport in the Seychelles, that Sri Lankan is intent to commence flights between Colombo and Mahe in October this year. The Sri Lankan national airline will initially operate three return flights a week and, subject to regulatory approval by the Kenyan civil aviation authority and government plans to extend the service to Nairobi.

This would be the first ever direct flight link to Sri Lanka and offers travelers from other destinations of Sri Lankan on the Indian mainland and beyond the opportunity to reach Nairobi with a two stop flight.

Sri Lankan is partnering with Etihad, Abu Dhabi’s national airline, as is incidentally Air Seychelles, where Etihad holds 40 percent shares. It is not known at this stage if Sri Lankan and Air Seychelles will codeshare the flights, and if flights to Nairobi would also be codeshared between the two.

Etihad is also now flying in partnership with Kenya Airways to Abu Dhabi on a fully code shared operation and this may be the door opener for Sri Lankan perhaps getting their fifth freedom traffic rights between Mahe and Nairobi, which are thought crucial for the commercial success of the operation. Air Seychelles does presently not fly to Kenya and Kenya Airways is – during the present high season – operating four flights a week from Nairobi to Mahe, again not in code share with Air Seychelles.

A regular aviation source from the Seychelles when asked to comment on the development wrote: ‘Sri Lanka’s president visited us a few weeks ago and one of the outcomes was an agreement to establish air services between our two islands. In part it is the cooperation with Etihad which is bringing their airline partners together to also cooperate. It is possible for Air Seychelles to negotiate with Sri Lankan to put a code share agreement in place for the entire route, Colombo to Mahe and on to Nairobi. Maybe Kenya Airways can come on board because they also have a Memorandum of Understanding with Etihad and code share from Nairobi to Abu Dhabi. It would for sure provide much needed extra flights from Nairobi to the Seychelles, and if such an agreement on code sharing can be reached, it will give travellers from Africa even more opportunities to visit our islands. Let’s wait and see how the Kenyan authorities will respond to Sri Lanka’s request for 5th freedom rights but from the Seychelles side there should be no problem at all’.

Sri Lanka’s market entry to Kenya would in particular open the South Indian market for Kenya which would allow for increased trade and in particular travel, undoubtedly a shot in the arm for Kenya’s tourism industry and economy at large. Watch this space for breaking and regular news from the vibrant aviation scenes of Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.