SriLankan Airlines (UL, Colombo Int'l) will launch 2x weekly services from Malé in the Maldives to London Heathrow to support the struggling tourist sector of its southern neighbour state, Maldivian local daily The Times of Addu has reported.

Flights are scheduled to launch on December 12 and will operate at least through April 13, 2021, the ch-aviation schedules module shows. The airline will use A330-300s on the route. SriLankan Airlines' services will complement 6x weekly flights operated by British Airways (BA, London Heathrow), which are due to restart on December 4.

The route will be SriLankan Airlines' first scheduled fifth-freedom service not touching Sri Lanka. The airline currently operates 5x weekly between Male and Colombo Int'l.

The Maldives reopened to international tourism relatively early, in July 2020, and currently require only a negative PCR test taken less than 96 hours before the flight from arriving passengers. Travellers from all countries are eligible for visas on arrival. However, the flag carrier Maldivian (Q2, Malé) lacks the ability to operate long-haul flights as its jet fleet consists only of one A320-200 and one A321-200.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's EconomyNext has reported that the country's new government has pledged to inject USD150 million into the carrier in 2021 and a total of USD500 million in an unspecified "medium-term". Prime Minister and Finance Mahinda Rajapaksa blamed the previous administration, voted out in August 2020, for neglecting the long-term needs of SriLankan Airlines. He also criticised any attempts at privatising the airline.