After several hiccups, Air India is revving up to join the 28-country Star Alliance to stay afloat amid cut-throat competition, but Sri Lanka's national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, has pipped it by being the first airline from the subcontinent to join a global airline alliance. SriLankan will become a part of the Oneworld from May 1, expanding its reach to 900 destinations from its current 72.
The event was celebrated today at a ceremony at South Asia's newest international airport, Hambantota's Mattala Rajapaksa International. Among those present were Oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby and SriLankan chairman Nishantha Wickremasinghe.
SriLankan has grown significantly ever since peace returned to the island nation in 2009. Its integration to a global network has taken about two years and the procedure has been swift and hassle-free compared to Air India's: AI's application was suspended in 2011 after it failed to meet the parameters stipulated by the Star Alliance members. It is now expected to join the alliance in June.
SriLanka's addition to oneworld, which also includes British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas among others, will bring two new destinations to the network--Tiruchirapalli and Hambantota. The Lankan flagship carrier has six more gateways in India: Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kochi, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram.
"SriLankan's addition to one world as the first carrier from the subcontinent to join any global airline alliance means it will be easier than ever to visit our home region--not just Sri Lanka but also India and the Maldives," said Kapila Chandrasena, CEO, SriLankan Airlines.
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