SRILANKAN Airlines launched last Sunday direct flights between Moscow and Colombo, while Aeroflot is scheduled to resume Moscow-Colombo services from November 1, following a 10-year hiatus.
AeroSvit Ukrainian Airlines will also start thrice-weekly Kiev-Colombo flights on October 22 (TTG Asia e-Daily, September 20).
SriLankan will be using an A330 aircraft with 18 business-class and 236 economy-class seats on its Moscow flights, while Aeroflot plans to deploy an Ilyushin Il96 with 22 business-class and 238 economy-class seats.
Ncar Travels & Tours chairman Nilmin Nanayakkara said direct access to Russia was a boost to inbound tourism. “Two of my principals in fact found it difficult to get flights to Colombo,” he said, adding that the Ukraine flights would also help expand Sri Lanka’s market.
PATA chairman Hiran Cooray, who is also chairman of Sri Lanka-based Jetwing Hotels, said Russia was one of the world’s largest emerging outbound markets, and increased connections would certainly help entice more travellers from there.
Around 13,278 Russians visited Sri Lanka last year, a number tourism authorities are hoping to boost to 20,000 through the added flights. Eastern Europe represents about 25 per cent of Sri Lanka’s overseas arrivals.