Dubai's low-cost carrier Flydubai has affirmed its commitment to the Sri Lankan government of flying into the upcoming Mattala airport when completed but didn't say when flights would begin. The Middle Eastern carrier was in Colombo last week to announce its increase in flight frequencies to Colombo from Dubai from 5 to 7 since March 11 this year.
The airline's CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith speaking to the media said "we have made a commitment to fly there (Hambantota), adding that there is a need for an alternative place (to Colombo) to fly as well and since it would be closer to destinations that customers would want to visit."
During discussions with the relevant local authorities the airline had deliberated on further increasing their flights to the country based on the surge in tourist arrivals. However, it was noted that they had not made any specific commitments towards this proposal. Mr. Al Ghaith said the increase in demand and the change in their timing to Russia have contributed to more tourists visiting Sri Lanka from this region, using Dubai as the connecting hub.
The airline currently has 23 aircraft and operate to 50 destinations worldwide; and have made the single largest order of 50 aircraft, he said. With Russia and CIS nations identified as an emerging market, the airline will be focusing on increasing its operations to this region. Mr. Al Ghaith explained that due to the Arab spring (new political culture) there has been an increased travel to Dubai and Colombo is said to have taken advantage of that as well.
The carrier would also promote Sri Lanka as a destination on their inflight entertainment programmes as part of their discussions with Sri Lanka Tourism officials, he said.