The Doha station of SriLankan Airlines recorded an eight per cent increase over its targeted growth for the year 2002-2003.
The carrier is also considering the addition of one more flight between Doha and Colombo, said a senior official.
According to a Peninsula report, the airline's regional manager, Middle East, Europe and America, Sugath Rajapakse, said: "Our growth in Doha market was much better than we expected. We exceeded the targeted revenue for the financial year 2002-2003."
He attributed the growth to an increased flow of tourists to Sri Lanka and destinations beyond such as the Maldives and the Far East from Qatar as well as Indian expatriates travelling to cities in Kerala and Bangalore via Colombo.
Rajapakse said a large number of tourists were arriving in Sri Lanka following the cessation of hostilities in the country. He also hinted at the possibility of SriLankan launching a fourth flight between Doha and Colombo. He said the demand for more seats in this sector already exists. "However, we need extra aircraft for these operations. If we launch the fourth flight, it will come only next summer," he said, according to the report.
SriLankan Airlines is also said to be studying the possibility of operating to other destinations in India. "This will be discussed at the next round of bilateral aviation talks between India and Sri Lanka," he said. The airlines's four weekly flights to Bangalore, he said, had become extremely popular among the Karnataka community in Qatar. "We are seeing a lot of IT experts and tourists from that state visiting Sri Lanka for holidays," he added.
"Several followers of Satya Sai Baba from around the world also travel on the Bangalore flight since that city is near to the religious leader's home," he noted. Meanwhile, SriLankan Airlines will re-launch its seasonal flights between Doha and the city of Bodh Gaya in India's Bihar state next month. These flights will be operated until March 2004 and are used by pilgrims from Sri Lanka and the Far East who want to visit the place where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment, according to the report. The airline will be acquiring two new Airbus A-340-200 wide-bodied, long-haul aircraft later this year. "The induction of these aircraft will enable us increase our London flights to 11 per week, Frankfurt to three per week, four flights to Paris and extra capacity between Colombo and Zurich," Rajapakse added.
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