SriLankan Airlines (UL, Colombo International) has grounded three aircraft because they do not have the available funds to pay for engine repairs according to Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva. He told Sri Lanka's parliament on February 10, 2023, that the aircraft have been grounded for several months for this reason.

Repeating earlier calls to restructure and privatise the airline, de Silva claimed SriLankan Airlines was carrying USD1.2 billion in debt, and outgoings such as interest and lease payments ate into any possible profit margins. “Three aircraft are on the ground,” the minister said. “For several months we have not had the money to fix the engines."

SriLankan Airlines CEO Richard Nuttall confirmed to ch-aviation that three A320 family aircraft were grounded due to a lack of engines. They include an A321-200N registered as 4R-ANF (msn 8106), an A320-200N registered as 4R-ANA (msn 7486), and an A321-200 registered as 4R-ABQ (msn 3397).

Nuttall says this is the result of a combination of issues including reliability problems with the new technology CFM International Leap engines, the grounding of aircraft during Covid, payment issues coming out of Covid, and the 2022 financial meltdown in Sri Lanka.

"At the moment we have payment plans agreed upon that have been operating for several months. Now the challenge is the availability of engines and slots at overhaul facilities. This is an industry challenge affecting many airlines," he said.

Meanwhile, the carrier continues to operate 19 aircraft to three dozen destinations in 21 countries. However, a decision that appears to have been made at government level to boost flights to China has reportedly brought the grounded aircraft to de Silva's attention. He says that even though the planes are grounded, the airline is obliged to continue making the lease payments, a situation the minister says is further eroding the chances of any profit. "Even if the engine is broken and we have to keep the aircraft on the ground we have to pay the lease rental," he said.

Three days before the parliamentary session, SriLankan Airlines filed a disclosure saying that it would default on a past-due interest payment relating to USD175 million worth of government-guaranteed bonds after a grace period expired.