SriLankan Airlines Looks To The A350 & A330neo To Replace Retiring Jets

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SriLankan Airlines is considering the Airbus A330neo and A350 as a part of its fleet modernization. The airline plans to retire six to seven aircraft in the next two years and possibly replace them with the more efficient widebodies. Let’s find out more.

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SriLankan is looking to add new widebodies to its fleet to increase cargo capacity and range. Photo: Getty Images

Retiring

At the Routes Reconnected event yesterday, SriLankan Airlines CEO Vipula Gunatilleka spoke about the current state of the airline and future plans. Amid a wide-ranging discussion, he touched upon the airline’s fleet and the new aircraft under consideration.

SriLankan is planning to retire six to seven aircraft in the next two years, leaving a sizeable gap in the 24-strong fleet. The exact type of planes up for retirement was not discussed, but we can get some hints from their replacements. Mr. Gunatilleka was quite ambitious about buying new planes, citing the significant reduction in prices due to the pandemic.

SriLankan Airbus A330-200
While the exact planes being retired in unknown, SriLankan’s A330-200s are rapidly showing their age. Photo: John Taggart via Wikimedia Commons

To replace the retiring aircraft, SriLankan is considering Airbus’ largest twin-engines options, with Mr. Gunatilleka saying,

“We’ve got an all-Airbus fleet so we’ll look at maybe similar aircraft, so maybe the A330-900neo or even the [A]350 because today the [A]350 is affordable and also to the cargo network are building it might be handy aircraft to have especially on the long hauls.”

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Focus on cargo

The decision to go with the A330neo or A350 is largely dictated by the added cargo capacity and long-range these jets offer. As SriLankan begins its recovery, it plans to rebuild its passenger network around busy cargo routes. Destinations like London, Tokyo, Nairobi, and European hubs have all emerged as big cargo routes for the airline during the pandemic.

Currently, SriLankan operates a fleet of 24 jets, split into seven A320s, five A321s, and five A330-200s, and seven A330-300s. The last two are the ones flying long-haul cargo routes to Europe and East Asia with a higher capacity.

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The A350 would open up markets like the US for SriLankan while offering more space for cargo. Photo: Getty Images

However, the aircraft are aging, with the long-range A330-200s averaging 18.7 years each, according to Planespotters.net. The -300s are much younger at only six years old on average. However, since the A330-200s offer more range, they are currently flying as converted freighters.

Both the A350 and A330neo would offer a host of benefits to SriLankan. In addition to adding new destinations and capacity to the cargo network, the increased passenger seating could help on popular routes to China and Australia.

Decision soon

Considering the depressed market for widebody sales, SriLankan is sure it can nab the A330neo or A350 at favorable prices. While the former would fit well within the carrier’s A330 infrastructure, the A350 offers a marked expansion for the carrier. In addition to this, SriLankan has also received permission to operate dedicated freighter aircraft soon.

The coming year will likely see the airline make a final decision about the fleet modernization plan. Whether it’s the A330neo or A350, expect to see some major upgrades to the airline’s offerings.

What do you think about SriLankan’s fleet plans? Let us know in the comments!

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