FitsAir takes to smarter flying as Sri Lanka’s first private scheduled international carrier.
Daily FT: FitsAir of Aberdeen Holdings will become Sri Lanka’s first private scheduled international passenger carrier from next week offering affordable and dependable air travel marking a major milestone in the country’s aviation industry.
Fits Aviation, successor of Expo Aviation with origins spanning 25 years, will launch thrice weekly services from Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo to Dubai from 5 October, to Male from 10 October and to Trichy from 28 October. It will deploy three Airbus A320-200 offering eight Economy Plus seats and 156 Economy class seats.
Aberdeen Holdings has hired aviation veteran Peter Hill of Emirates, SriLankan Airlines and Oman Air fame to be the Vice President of Passenger Services of FitsAir. “We are geared to offer sustainably affordable and dependable air services on a no-frills basis to Sri Lankans as well as those in destinations we are servicing,” Hill told journalists yesterday.
The Budget carrier will provide a free checked-in baggage allowance of 30 kgs to all customers along with a free carry-on bag of 7 kgs. Reduced fares for baggage of less than 20 kgs are on offer. Passengers can also purchase excess baggage at the airport, subject to space availability. In true Sri Lankan hospitality, all passengers will get a complimentary refreshment pack, although substantial meals, beverages and snacks will be available for purchase on board plus pre-bookings on longer duration flights.
Substantiating the promise of significant price difference, Hill said a round trip to Dubai on Economy Class will cost Rs. 186,000 and without checked-in baggage it will be Rs. 175,800. Economy Plus will cost Rs. 279,100 per return ticket with checked-in baggage allowance. For male, Economy Plus will cost Rs. 233,000 and Economy Rs. 129,500 (with baggage) and Rs. 122,100 (without baggage).
“We want to grow our business delivering simple things best firstly,” said Hill who served SriLankan Airlines as CEO from March 1997 to December 2008 and as CEO Oman Air from July 2008 to December 2011.
Fits aircraft are on dry leases and the company has made arrangements to self-source the required jet fuel, said Hill who added that Fits Aviation has been working on the launch of passenger services for over 12 months. It has also got permission to ground handling at BIA on its own but will initially rely on SriLankan Airlines with close supervision.
Hill said based on demand, which he was confident of, FitsAir will increase services to the initial three destinations as well as launch flights to new locations within South Asia, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. He indicated that serving more cities in India, Sri Lanka’s biggest air travel market, is likely by early next year.
FitsAir also plans to launch international flights to select Indian destinations out of Jaffna as a mini-hub using French-made 70-seater ATRs and to Male from Ratmalana tapping the advantage of shorter flight time. Scheduled domestic flights between Ratmalana to Jaffna and vice versa are on the cards as well to select tourist sites within Sri Lanka using a 12-seater Cessna Caravan aircraft.
Hill said that apart from two including himself, the 200 staff of FitsAir are also Sri Lankans passionate to offer superior service, reliability and operational efficiency.
“As a low cost carrier we can’t afford to lose money and FitsAir can be a second force in Sri Lanka’s aviation industry proving that private sector can successfully operate an international scheduled services airline,” emphasised Hill, who counts over 50 years’ experience in the aviation sector and was a key member of the management team that launched two major airlines – Emirates and budget carrier flydubai as well as CEO responsible for rebranding of national carriers of Sri Lanka and Sultanate of Oman.
Aberdeen Holdings is a privately-held diversified conglomerate headquartered in Colombo with interests in 11 industries including packaging, commodities, aviation and logistics, energy, recycling and retail and agribusiness. It serves 29 countries and has over 1,300 employees.
The entrance of FitsAir to Sri Lanka’s aviation industry is indicative of the growing business potential in the country’s aviation sector as well as the increase in travel to and from Sri Lanka. The country is currently working towards becoming a business destination in the South Asian region supported by Sri Lanka’s geographical positioning in the Indian Ocean and the many trade agreements as well as trade concessions enjoyed by the country. Sri Lanka has also been identified as a must visit tourist destination by international media outlets while several global travel publications have listed the country among the top island destinations. All these are indicative of the increase in business travellers as well as tourists to the country. Also, there is a growing need for the development of supplementary infrastructure facilities in line with the increase in foreign travellers to the country. Foreign businesses/investors could therefore explore the growing business/investment opportunities in Sri Lanka’s aviation industry and development related to the industry.
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