SriLankan Airlines Returns To Moscow After Six Year Absence

SriLankan Airlines is rebuilding its former long-haul network, putting Moscow back onto its network map from the end of July. It is six years since SriLankan Airlines last flew to Russia. But it is a softly softly approach from the Colombo-based airline, with flights initially only operating once a week.

Sri Lankan A330
After a six-year absence, SriLankan Airlines is resuming flights to Moscow. Photo: Eluveitie via Wikimedia

Weekly SriLankan flights to Moscow from July 31

From July 31, a SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330-300 will push back at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) every Friday at 22:30 local time. After flying through the night, UL533 will land at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport (DME) at 04:30 local time.

After spending the day on the ground, the Airbus will depart Domodedovo at 19:15 on Saturday evening. UL534 will touch down in Colombo at 06:05 on Sunday morning.

“The resumption of services connecting Colombo and Moscow is a link that will not only facilitate travel but will be the impetus for building closer bilateral business connections between the two countries,” says SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage in a statement.

SriLankan’s flagship A330-300 aircraft fly 297 passengers in two cabins. The economy class cabin accommodates 269 passengers, almost all in a 2-4-2 configuration. At the rear of the cabin are several rows featuring a 2-3-2 configuration.

“The legroom for this seat was normal for an international flight. The window for this seat was just next to my head and right behind the seat in front of me,” on passenger posted on SeatGuru. “When reclined, this allowed me to rest my head comfortably. Overall, the service was good, the IFE was great, and the seat was relatively comfortable.”

SriLankan Airlines will use A330-300s on its Moscow flights. Photo: Mark Harkin via Wikimedia
Sri Lankan A330
Andy Mitchell, flickr

SriLankan Airlines has high hopes for its Moscow flights

Towards the front of the aircraft is SriLankan’s luxe business class. There are 28 seats in this cabin in a 1-2-1 configuration, although the rows don’t precisely align. Passengers will find all the usual long-haul business class creature comforts – lie-flat seats, direct aisle access, and hospitable Sri Lankan service.

“SriLankan Airlines is resuming flights to the Russian capital after a break of six years,” says Dimuthu Tennakoon, SriLankan Airlines Head of Worldwide Sales and Distribution. He says the resuming flights target leisure travelers and the student market. Airports at both ends of the flight offer convenient connections throughout the nearby regions.

“This operation would offer a new and easy travel path in connecting the Russian Federation and surrounding countries,” says SriLankan Airlines CEO Vipula Gunatilleka.

Before the 2019 travel crunch, Sri Lanka was a small but fast-growing hotspot for Russian tourists. While SriLankan Airlines had exited the market, Russian airlines went on to replace the capacity. In 2019, 86,549 Russian tourists visited Sri Lanka, a 34% increase from the previous year. Aeroflot Group subsidiary Rossiya Airlines moved onto the Moscow – Colombo route in 2018 and was operating 44 flights per month by the end of 2019.

Much of SriLankan’s long-haul flying is now underpinned by cargo. Photo: Getty Images

Cargo helps SriLankan rebuild its long-haul network

SriLankan exited Moscow in 2015, citing underperformance. At the same time, SriLankan Airlines ended service to several other long-haul destinations. The airline’s long-haul network was further trimmed last year due to border closures and declining long-haul passenger demand.

Like many other airlines, cargo has since proved a bright spot for SriLankan Airlines, helping to underpin many of its surviving long-haul flights. Cargo has also encouraged SriLankan to expand and gradually rebuild its network. Cargo may be one of the reasons why SriLankan Airlines is having another go on the Moscow route.