SriLankan Airlines is reportedly planning to add its first freighter aircraft to capitalise on growing international trade from the country.

The airline said in a statement that it will take delivery of its of its first freighter aircraft by the winter 2021/2022, although it did not reveal the manufacturer or model.

Chamara Ranasinghe, Head of Cargo at SriLankan Airlines said that the carrier intends to pursue the freighter initiative in allowing the airline to participate in the upside of Sri Lanka’s growing international trade as well as trans-shipment and global cargo opportunities in the Far East, Europe, Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

He said, “While still 50% under the pre-Covid  levels in terms of total volumes and available cargo capacity, airfreight imports and exports have been steadily rising with double digit month on month growth in handled cargo from December 2020, with certain days recording the historically highest handled tonnage.”

The perishable sector (fruits, vegetables, seafood) accounts for over 40% of all uplift and is one of the key airfreight commodities that has currently taken precedence out of Sri Lanka. Garments are another key export sector for the island.

Meanwhile, imports include electronics, some of which are destined for India.

Ranasinghe informed that the airline currently maintains scheduled cargo operations to more 26 destinations with the aim of maximising the revenue potential for the airline during the unprecedented tumultuous period in the aviation industry.

The SriLankan Airlines fleet presently accounts for 24 Airbus passenger aircraft, with 12 widebody and 12 narrowbody aircraft.

The airline also reconfigured an A330 widebody aircraft for a dedicated cargo-only operation through the installation of pallets on the maindeck for bulk cargo loading.

The cargo handling facilities at Bandaranaike International Airport comprise of two terminals with an annual handling capacity of over 270,000 metric tonnes.

The airline further intends to develop dedicated handling facilities with segregated areas for handling general cargo, perishables and courier cargo.

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