DALLAS – Let’s start with the fact that FitsAir (8D) is Sri Lanka’s first private scheduled international airline, which is indeed a breakthrough in Sri Lankan aviation.
For decades, flag carrier Sri Lankan airlines (UL) bore the full credit of international flights, and that brings you to the question – how can a country with a population of over 21 million have just a single airline flying overseas? Not just that, in a decade dominated by LCCs, why doesn’t Sri Lanka have one?
What was long overdue is finally here—a sure benefit to the Lankan people.
It all began in 1997 when the airline was founded as Expo Aviation. With a fleet of Antonovs and Illyushins, the Lankan carrier hauled cargo to neighboring Asian states. In 2012, the carrier launched domestic passenger flights using a Grand Caravan.
Later rebranded as FitsAir, the desire to offer affordable air travel to the Lankan people was on the list and just last month, 8D launched its inaugural service from Colombo (CMB) to Dubai (DXB).
“FitsAir has been launched as a scheduled passenger and cargo airline, based at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport offering affordable and convenient regional air services, between Sri Lanka and destinations in South and South East Asia and the GCC”Peter Hill, FitsAir Vice President
Based on the ever-dominant low-cost carrier model, 8D will use Colombo’s Bandaranaike international airport for its initial set of international flights —Dubai, Male (MLE), and Trichy (TRZ). But that’s not it.
Plans to re-launch domestic service using the older Ratmalana (RML) airport and Jaffna (JAF) in Northern Sri Lanka are on the table too.
Airways’ Siddharth Ganesh engaged in a brief exchange with FitsAir’s Vice President, Peter Hill.
Unstable Economy, A New Airline
SG: Sri Lanka is witnessing a major economic crisis, with a 66% inflation rate, fuel shortages, and dire hardship in securing food too. As for the timing of the launch, given the economic crisis in Sri Lanka, how much of this would affect your initial operations?
PH: We are cautiously optimistic that the months ahead will witness the return of inbound tourism and herald the beginning of an economic recovery in Sri Lanka. Many markets in our region are performing strongly, with the demand for air travel post-COVID returning. Our initial routes to Dubai and the Maldives have got off to a promising start.
As fuel shortage seems to also be a serious concern, has FitsAir hedged much of it? What percentage do you expect fuel prices to make up a ticket?
FitsAir has recently entered into an agreement with the GOSL to import aviation fuel to cover our current and projected monthly needs, thus not burdening our government with the need to use foreign exchange for this purpose.
Currently, our fuel costs are running at 46% of our operating costs.
What’s the Fits Fleet?
We currently have three A320-200 aircraft in our fleet, with one currently assigned to scheduled passenger operations. Our 2nd aircraft has been repainted in our new livery and is currently being readied to enter service in November.
The 3rd A320 is being reconfigured from cargo to passenger operation and is expected to enter service in January 2023.
Would US$510 be slightly on the higher end for the Colombo-Dubai return run, especially for an LCC?
Our current prices for a Colombo-Dubai return ticket are in the range of US$370 with a 30 kg FBAG and US$330 with only a 7 kg carry-on bag. These fares are inclusive of all taxes, of which US$90 is government taxes.
Economy Plus—what can passengers expect in this cabin?
We plan to launch our Economy Plus product shortly which will offer our customers;
- A dedicated cabin in the front of the aircraft.
- A wider reclinable seat with more legroom in a 2X2 configured cabin layout.
- A complimentary meal or snack depending upon journey time.
- Priority boarding and disembarkation of the aircraft.
Two Carriers, One Country, Two Tales to Tell
Surely you look at SriLankan Airlines. Although it has its fair share of issues, what threat could it pose to you if it regains momentum?
SriLankan Airlines is a government-owned full-service network carrier, part of the oneworld Alliance and with a global reach.
FitsAir is a privately owned, no-frills regional carrier, offering affordable airfares on point-to-point journeys. Our target audience is local passengers traveling for business or pleasure, whereas Sri Lankan’s market base is much more diversified, offering International travelers a range of products and services.
Whilst there will obviously be some overlap on certain routes, we see the two airlines complementing each other, to boost Tourism to Sri Lanka and expand the presence of airlines from Sri Lanka on international routes.
Featured image: FitsAir
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