Speaking on ‘Bloomberg Markets’ on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow Tuesday, the CEO of SriLankan Airlines discussed the challenges the airline is facing, and plans to return the airline to profitability.
The Airline Chief said the SriLankan like any other airline in the industry is going through many challenges – geopolitical issues, the economic slowdown and now the coronavirus starting the year with Iranian tensions.
“We are not different to any other airlines…we are coping with that at the moment. We have reduced the capacity to certain Chinese destinations more than 50%. We’ve done some consolidations. We’ll continue like this for a week or two to get a real assessment of the situation.”
Gunatilleka said while the Easter attack was quite a setback for the airline, the management is proud of the airline’s performance post-Easter.
“We are proud of what we did post-Easter. For example, our January numbers, we are only -$ 10 million EBITA, which is quite a significant achievement compared to last year. Last year, our EBITA was -$ 55 million. Of course our yield came under somewhat pressure due to competition and slowdown in demand. But we have worked on many aspects like improving the customer experiences, product in our key markets and embracing more on technology to improve our online services as well as revamp the online platforms.”
When asked about the Airbus scandal and whether the airline is seeking legal action for hurting its reputation, the CEO said it is too early to comment on the matter.
“We will do the right thing by the airline and by the country. Too premature to comment on seeking compensation from Airbus at this stage,” the CEO said.
Responding to a question about privatisation of 49% stake of the airline, the CEO said it was an idea put forward by the previous Government to make the airline profitable but nothing has materialised yet.
“We want to basically bring the airline to a decent stage and then also to have a viable business plan. Privatisation is not the only option. There are many other options like private-public partnerships. At the moment our focus is to bring the airline to a break-even stage,” he said.
The CEO said the airline is an economic priority for the Government as it has contributed tremendously to the national economy.