SriLankan Airlines (UL, Colombo Int'l) will shortly announce a Request for Proposals (RFP) for two dedicated freighters, Chairman Ashok Pathirage told UAE's The National newspaper.

"There's so much cargo business at the moment. Exports have picked up, so there’s huge demand and we want to help the national economy. One lesson learnt from COVID is to not be completely dependent on passenger business and to look for other alternatives," he said.

While SriLankan Airlines does not operate any dedicated freighters, it has aggressively expanded in the cargo market since the COVID-related border closure completely closed its international-only scheduled passenger business. The carrier currently operates one A321-200N, three A330-200s, and six A330-300s on cargo-only flights.

Despite its budding freight ambitions, SriLankan Airlines also hopes to recover and expand its passenger business in the future. Pathirage reaffirmed the airline's plans to turn Colombo Int'l into an international hub connecting Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa.

Sri Lanka expects to reopen airports to international arrivals in January 2021. The flag carrier hopes to restructure and achieve profitability - which was not the case before COVID - by the end of 2022.