Fly Lankan Asia (Colombo Int'l) is planning to target the short-haul cargo and passenger services niche and has already secured its first aircraft - from Kenya - ahead of a planned late 2021 debut, chief executive Arosha Fernando told The Sunday Observer newspaper.

In an interview, Fernando said Fly Lankan Asia would focus on a gap it sees in the short-haul cargo and passenger travel market in Sri Lanka.

"The gap in the availability of low-cost service in and out of the Sri Lankan hub coupled with the demand for cargo and passenger travel on selected routes from Sri Lanka indicates that a new entrant airline could be expected to capture a significant portion of current air travel business at that hub," he said.

"It is noteworthy to highlight the fact that the launch phase of the airline is primarily focused on cargo operations as we believe that the travel restrictions due to the pandemic would be persistent in the short to medium term. In this light, it would be prudent to focus our effort in cargo operation and establish ourselves with a strong footing in cargo and be ready to seize opportunities in passenger operations subsequently."

In terms of network, the start-up will offer both passenger and cargo flights from the Sri Lankan airports of Colombo Int'l, Hambantota, and Colombo Ratmalana to Dubai, the Maldives, India, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Indonesia in its initial phase.

Sri Lankan civil aviation records show the start-up was on Phase 3 of its AOC drive - document evaluation - as of September 24 of this year. As such, fleet procurement is in full swing.

"We have already purchased our first aircraft from Kenya and expect to bring it down to Sri Lanka in the coming weeks after obtaining the necessary [civil aviation] authority approvals, which are in process. At the same time, a number of other aircraft are being negotiated, and under the current economic climate, we have a very good negotiation power," the CEO added.

According to Fernando, Fly Lankan Asia's main investor is from Miami and has been involved in launching five airlines in seven countries.

Sri Lanka's international carriers are currently limited to SriLankan Airlines (UL, Colombo Int'l) and FitsAir (8D, Colombo Int'l). Both are involved in passenger and cargo operations, with SriLankan having issued a tender for the wet-lease of its first widebody freighter in July this year.