SriLankan Airlines to train more Pakistani aircraft engineers  

SriLankan Airlines’ reputation as a leading aviation training centre in South Asia continues to grow, with more aircraft engineers from Pakistan undergoing training at Katunayake.

Six more aircraft engineers from Airblue, Pakistan’s fast-growing private airline, are undergoing training in maintenance of Airbus A319, A320, and A321 aircraft, at SriLankan’s Technical Training School.

Harsha Priyadarshan, Technical Training Manager at SriLankan, said: “I’m pleased to say that this is the second group from Airblue whom we are training this year. We trained three other groups from the same airline over the last two years as well.”

SriLankan Technical Training is one of the few companies in Asia to hold the globally recognised EASA 147 certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency for training in Aircraft Maintenance. It continuously runs a two-year programme in aircraft engineering for Sri Lankans, and has been training an increasing number of foreign personnel, notably from Pakistan, the Maldives, Oman and India.

SriLankan has an all-Airbus fleet, which is an advantage to those who need to be trained in the many aspects of maintenance of Airbus aircraft, including Airframe and Power Plant, Avionics, and Radio Engineering.

The course for Airblue runs over two months from March to May and covers engineering and maintenance aspects of the A320 family aircraft. It includes field visits to both Base and Line Maintenance

Airblue now operates to nine destinations – Manchester, Dubai, and seven cities throughout Pakistan – with a fleet of six Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft. It recently placed an order for eight more A320s.


Kozhikode prepares for Emirates

Age-old trade ties between Dubai and Kozhikode – a port city in the Southern Indian state of Kerala that welcomed its first Middle Eastern traders as early as the seventh century – are set to accelerate with the launch of Emirates Airline’s six-flights-a-week service, effective July 1st.

Kozhikode, Emirates’ third gateway in Kerala after Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram and its 10th in India, bears testimony of the airline’s long-standing commitment to this market and its robust expansion drive.

To promote its award-winning product and to brief the travel trade on the wide range of services offered, Emirates hosted a massive road show in Kozhikode recently. A high-level Emirates delegation led by Salem Obaidalla, Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, West Asia and Indian Ocean and comprising Orhan Abbas, Vice President India and Nepal, senior executives from the airline’s home base in Dubai and its Indian Headquarters in Mumbai will address a gathering of over 600 agents from Kozhikode and its surrounding districts including Cannanore, Pallakkad, Mallapuram, Tellicherry and Trichur.

Salem noted: “We are gearing up for the launch of our services to Kozhikode in the summer of this year. In the past few months we have stepped up our recruitment efforts, and will soon start training our newly-appointed staff to serve the city’s travellers. In Kozhikode we will establish a town office, an airport office as well as a separate cargo office to manage the city’s passenger and cargo requirements.”

He added: “An estimated two million Keralites work and live in the Gulf region. Emirates has a robust presence in the Middle East, serving the region with 163 weekly flights to 12 gateways via its Dubai hub. The start of services to Kozhikode will enable Emirates to serve Kerala with an additional gateway and at the same time enhance connectivity between the state and the Middle East.”

On the route, Emirates will operate the technologically-advanced Boeing 777-200 and Airbus A330-200 aircraft in two-class configurations offering over 2000 seats and almost 100 tonnes of cargo capacity per week per direction.

Onboard, passengers will enjoy multi-course meals with ethnic dishes prepared by master chefs and accompanied by an extensive range of beverages; attentive service from the airline’s multi-lingual crew; personal entertainment systems; and quieter and more restful cabins equipped with wider seats.

Earlier this year, Emirates launched daily services to Cape Town on 30th March. Guangzhou will be added to the airline’s rapidly-expanding network on July 1st, the same day that Emirates commences flights to Kozhikode. The airline will also advance its footprint in North America with the launch of services to Los Angeles and San Francisco on September 1st and October 26th, respectively.

Flight schedule:
Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays
EK562 departs Dubai at 14:15 hours and arrives in Kozhikode at 19:50 hours
EK563 departs Kozhikode at 21:20 hours and arrives in Dubai at 23:40 hours  
Thursdays and Saturdays
EK560 departs Dubai at 03:30 hours and arrives in Kozhikode at 09:05 hours
EK561 departs Kozhikode at 10:35 hours and arrives in Dubai at 12:25 hours


South Asia tourism leaders discuss the way ahead

South Asia’s largest travel and tourism exhibition, SATTE 2008, was held April 18-20, in New Delhi India. This 15th annual exhibition drew over 225 tour operators from 35 countries with 13 countries exhibiting their products. The highlight of the event was the Som Nath Chib Memorial Lecture and interactive session titled “South Asian Tourism -  An Opportunity Lost.”

The 23rd Som Nath Chib Memorial Lecture, organised by the Inder Sharma Foundation, was chaired by Shilabhadra Banerjee, Secretary Tourism Government of India. Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman, Renton de Alwis delivered this year’s Som Nath Chib Memorial Lecture on ‘South Asian Tourism; the Way Ahead.’ The response was delivered by Dr. Shahzad Qaiser, Secretary Ministry of Tourism of Pakistan. The lecture was followed by a session on ‘Indian Aviation 2008: at Cross Roads,’ anchored by Kapil Kaul of CAPA India.

Late Som Nath Chib, a most distinguished civil servant, was the first Director General of Tourism of India. Chib, a former deputy director general of All India Radio was a pioneer in promoting tourism in South Asia. Not confining himself to his motherland, he gave of his expertise and experience to the then Government of Ceylon in the early sixties and later to the Bahamas. Chib also advised the governments of Nepal, Malaysia, Iran and Afghanistan and had the distinction of being in the pioneering team that formed the World Tourism Organisation.

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India Romesh Jayasinghe, leaders of the tourism industry of India and senior Chib family members were among the distinguished invitees at the lecture.

The Sri Lanka Tourism stall at the exhibition focused on the ‘Ramayana Trail,’ a new and off the beaten track product, which attracted many inquiries and is expected to draw visitors in numbers, to explore the hitherto unexplored sites believed to be connected to Valmiki’s epic poetic work; ‘The Ramayanaya.’


Nepal slashes cost of climbing Everest

(AFP) - Nepal has drastically cut the cost of climbing Mount Everest and other Himalayan peaks to try and attract more mountaineers to the country, an official said Thursday.

“The government has approved the decision to cut the royalty fee for climbing Everest by 75 per cent during winter and summer seasons and 50 per cent during the autumn season,” tourism official Krishna Prasad Gyawali told AFP.
Prices for the spring season, by far Everest’s busiest due to a brief summiting window before monsoon rains, will remain the same.

But the number of people allowed on a 70,000-dollar-permit will be raised to 15 from 12, the official said.
“Prices for permits on the other 326 peaks over 5,500 metres (18,250 feet) that are open for climbing have been slashed on a similar basis,” said Gyawali.

As well as the 8,848-metre (29,198-foot) Everest, Nepal has another seven of the world’s 14 highest peaks. Mountaineering brings much needed hard currency into the impoverished nation sandwiched between India and China.
“To encourage mountaineering in unexplored and backward areas, the government also decided to allow mountaineering free of charge in the mid-west and far-west regions for the next five years,” said Gyawali.

“Most of the time, people only climb the famous peaks -- Everest, Langtang and the Annapurnas -- while many other mountains with great potential are ignored. We want to end this trend,” the official said.
This year’s Everest spring season has seen the northern approach to the mountain through Chinese-controlled Tibet closed by Beijing.

Chinese authorities -- fearful of protests by pro-Tibet groups -- want to keep the mountain clear in early May while they try to get an Olympic torch to the world’s highest point.

At China’s bidding, Nepal has imposed strict new regulations on the southern approach to the mountain.
Last week, Nepal deported an American mountaineer who was found to be carrying a pro-Tibet banner at Everest base camp.
Nepal has enforced a media blackout on Everest coverage at base camp.

It has also deployed police and army personnel on the mountain to ensure that climbers are not above 6,500 metres (21,450 feet) while the Chinese make their summit bid between May 1 and 10.
The mountain has been summitted more than 3,000 times since it was first scaled in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.


Emirates Shipping Line nominated for Seatrade Asia Award

Emirates Shipping Line has been nominated for the ‘Best Ship Liner Operator of 2008‘ award in the prestigious Seatrade Asia Awards 2008 to be held in Singapore. The award recognises the contributions and commitment of maritime operators in achieving service excellence across the region, and Emirates is one out of the three top contenders for the award short listed by the eminent panel of judges.

The nomination represented Emirates’ dedication in ensuring superior service quality and will continue to pursue for the best value for customers.

Emirates Shipping Line FZE, is registered in Dubai Maritime City of UAE and commercially headquartered in Dubai and Hong Kong, two of the busiest commercial hubs in the world. Operated by a team rich in experience of managing maritime trade, the company has a focused goal of attaining superior service quality and customer intimacy.


Air travel discounts for public sector

In a bid to facilitate and encourage overseas leisure travel among Sri Lankan nationals working for the Government of Sri Lanka and to expand our market base, SriLankan Airlines is offering concessional air travel facilities to the public sector based in Sri Lanka.

All government employees who would like to take a personal trip overseas are eligible to get a 25 % discount on economy class return market fares on SriLankan Airlines’ flights to any destination in its route network. This offer is valid year round for government servants, their spouses and dependent children under 21 years of age.

SriLankan Holidays, which is the leisure arm of the national carrier is also offering a 25% discount to the public sector employees and their immediate families, on the Mega 999 packages (2nights/3 days) to Delhi, Bombay, Goa, Hyderabad and Chennai, giving an opportunity to visit exotic locations in India.

“This is a unique offer from the national carrier, to support the public sector and to encourage the employees and their families to travel overseas” said Fayaz Thaha, Country Manager Sri Lanka.
SriLankan Airlines flies to 41 destinations in 22 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia which includes some of the best and most popular holiday destinations in the world.


Changing preferences for incentive travel

More inquiries were received by the Sri Lankan delegation attending at this year’s IMEX in Frankfurt for programmes designed to gain tranquility and relaxation, says Sri Lanka Convention Bureau which led the Sri Lanka delegation to IMEX with its partner SriLankan Airlines.

IMEX held in Frankfurt recently is the biggest annual MICE fair in the world for Meetings, Incentives and Conferences.  This year’s event was attended by 8,500 buyers of which more than 3,600 were hosted buyers - a far larger proportion of these being from long-haul markets than ever before. The buyers achieved over 40,000 pre-organised appointments and 30,000 of these appointments were made through the individual online appointment system. The event consisted of several networking opportunities where the Sri Lankan team was able to secure many business contacts and also through the Bureau’s participation with activities of ICCA (Internation Congress and Convention Association) during the IMEX.

The Bureau said that Sri Lanka’s presence at IMEX was needed because of its importance to our industry that deals with incentive tours from Europe. We made the maximum gain with minimum cost by effectively projecting Sri Lanka as a value destination for incentives. ‘In fact more inquiries were received for programmes such as meditation and we were fully geared to provide the buyers with such information and how they will benefit from these programmes. This trend will benefit the industry in the long run the Bureau continued.   The incentive travel business that the Bureau is promoting with SriLankan Airlines and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau; is expected to give leverage to the present gradual recovery from the markets in Western Europe.


International air traffic continues to slow in March: IATA

(AFP) - International air traffic growth continued to slow in March as the industry was hit by soaring fuel costs and the global credit crunch, the International Air Transport Association said on Friday.
As a result, IATA’s chief urged airlines to move towards consolidation, saying the industry’s fortunes “have taken a major turn for the worse.”

Compared to a year ago, international traffic grew only 4.0 percent in March.
IATA noted that the slowdown, particularly in Asia-Pacific traffic growth to just 4.3 percent, was significant as the region’s booming economies had been expected to “immunise them (against) the US slowdown.”
Middle East carriers continued to post double-digit growth of 15.4 percent but this was still sharply lower than the 20.4 percent posted a year earlier.

In North America, international traffic increased 6.3 percent while Europe rose 3.7 percent.
Only Latin American traffic posted higher-than-expected growth of 19.7 percent, boosted by strong demand.
“Traffic only tells a part of the story. Astronomical oil prices are hitting hard and the buffer of an expanding economy has disappeared. The fortunes of the industry have taken a major turn for the worse,” IATA director general and chief executive Giovanni Bisignani said.

He noted that with such “such dramatic shifts in the global economy, consolidation is critical.”
Consolidation in the United States, where Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines unveiled a 17.7-billion-dollar merger plan, is welcomed, he said.

“But it makes no sense that consolidation is limited to domestic partners. This is a global industry that needs to be run like a global business. The US-EU Open Sky Agreement second stage talks that open in May must deliver a modern approach to ownership rules,” he said.

The “Open Skies” accord allows airlines greater freedom to fly between Europe and the United States, replacing restrictive arrangements agreed many years ago.
British Airways said Wednesday it was examining closer cooperation with US carriers American Airlines and Continental Airlines but gave no additional information.