The inaugural flight from Warsaw to Colombo touched down at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) yesterday bearing holidaymakers, journalists and a top-tier trade delegation with members from Poland and across Europe.
Just in time for the start of the winter tourist season in Sri Lanka, the seasonal direct flight will operate thrice weekly from Warsaw to Colombo until the end of March 2020, with hopes of bringing around 10,000-15,000 Polish tourists to the country during the five-month period.
Present among the distinguished group of passengers were Poland’s Interior Minister Maciej Lang, Polish Ambassador to Sri Lanka Adam Burakowski, LOT Polish Airlines Chief Commercial Officer Michał Fijoł, company spokesperson Michał Czernicki and Poland’s next Miss Universe and LOT Polish Airlines flight attendant Olga Buława.
“The commencement of LOT Polish Airlines is a beginning of a new era in the Sri Lanka-Poland bilateral relationship,” Polish Ambassador to Sri Lanka Adam Burakowski told journalists in Colombo.
He said this milestone would help to bolster potential to support an increase in tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka and to strengthen economic cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, finance, education and culture between the two countries.
“Sri Lanka is one of our key partners in the South Asian region,” the Ambassador revealed.
LOT Polish Airlines Chief Commercial Officer Michał Fijoł said they were excited to join their local partners in celebrating the landing of LOT Polish Airlines’ very first direct flight to Colombo.
“Given Sri Lanka’s rising prominence as a must-visit destination in Asia, we are confident the improved connectivity enabled by LOT’s three weekly flights will help increase tourist arrivals while providing globetrotting Sri Lankans with a convenient and comfortable option for travelling to Poland, Central Europe or any other destination we fly to,” he added.
He said that depending on the outcome of seasonal operations to Colombo, they would decide on year-round flights to Sri Lanka.
“With 60 flights in five months, we hope to bring down around 10,000-15,000 Polish tourists to Sri Lanka for this winter season,” Fijoł added.
The total number of tourist arrivals from Poland to Sri Lanka last year was 20,000.
LOT Polish Airlines, working in partnership with the aviation sector of iconic Sri Lankan multinational conglomerate Hayleys Plc, commenced its thrice-weekly flight service from Warsaw to Colombo.
Hayleys Chairman and Chief Executive Mohan Pandithage said they were proud to give a warm Sri Lankan welcome to their very first group of travellers to fly on LOT Polish Airlines directly to Colombo. “We thank each of our honoured guests for choosing to visit and explore our beautiful paradise island, and we hope that you are able to return home having experienced true Sri Lankan hospitality. On behalf of the entire tourism industry, we also extend our sincere gratitude to LOT Polish Airlines for their support in further enhancing Sri Lanka’s connectivity to Poland and Central Europe, which we are confident will be of immense benefit to the entire tourism and hospitality sector,” he added.
Pandithage asserted that apart from Sri Lanka’s national carrier, LOT Polish Airlines was the only direct operator to bring European traffic to Colombo.
“With LOT Polish Airlines’ direct flight, we hope to attract many European and North American traffic to Colombo during this season. This will also enable Sri Lankan travellers to avoid a layover in Middle Eastern countries when reaching European countries,” he stressed.
Annually, over 1.8 million passengers travel between Europe and Colombo.
Noting that Sri Lanka had bounced back after the Easter Sunday attacks, Pandithage said the tourism industry was ready to serve the world with authentic Sri Lankan hospitality.
The new connection will be operated using the most modern wide-bodied aircraft in the world – the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Each aircraft offers passengers the choice of three service classes: LOT Business Class offering armchairs that unfold to a flatbed position and cuisine on par with the finest restaurants; LOT Premium Economy Class featuring large comfortable seats, foot and thigh rests, cocktail tables and an exotic menu and LOT Economy Class which includes individual on-board entertainment screens and USB sockets along with fresh and varied meals served during the voyage.
LOT hosted more than nine million passengers on its modern aircraft in 2018 alone and anticipates taking on board 10 million passengers in 2019, providing them with the most efficient and comfortable journeys from Warsaw to over 111 scheduled destinations on three continents.