SriLankan Airlines CEO Richard Nutall speaks to media in Colombo
Pic by Kithsiri de Mel
- CEO Nutall says exodus of aircraft pilots has become a major concern
- Recruitment freeze applicable to all state-run entities adding to woes
- Highlights need to expand operations to improve financial performance of debt-laden carrier
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
National carrier SriLankan Airlines is faced with a fresh challenge to tackle, as it is currently witnessing an exodus of airline pilots, SriLankan Airlines CEO Richard Nutall told journalists in Colombo, yesterday.
“It is a concern at the moment. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. The number of people leaving is starting to go up. This is something we are watching very carefully and are discussing with the board and ministry as well,” he said.
As a state-owned enterprise, the national carrier has restrictions on recruiting pilots to fill in the widening gap in human resources, which is adding to the woes it is facing.
“Many carriers in the world are looking for pilots. They are an international commodity,” said Nuttal.
Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its worst economic turmoil since its independence and as a result, a significant brain drain is currently taking place, with many professionals looking for overseas employment to beat the runaway inflation, which is clocking just shy of 70 percent.
SriLankan Airlines is at present losing its human resource assets to competing airlines across the world that are looking to expand capacity, so that frequencies can go back to pre-Covid-19 levels.
Nuttal asserted the need for the airline to expand its operations, so that it can reap the benefits of the growth in global tourism that is picking up after being impacted by the pandemic.
To improve the financial performance of the entity, which will spill over to the workforce of the carrier, Nutall said efforts must be taken to increase the frequency to high tourist traffic generating markets such as the UK and India.
SriLankan must also look to increase frequencies to destinations such as Singapore, Syndey, Korea and Malaysia, as they are high-potential markets, he pointed out.
However, the carrier is unable to proceed with its expansion plans, due to its limited fleet of aircraft. At present, Sri Lankan has a fleet of 24 aircraft. According to Nutall, ideally, the fleet size should be 32 aircraft.
Efforts are underway to gain the Cabinet approval to replace the seven aircraft that parted with the carrier last year and the three that will be leaving this year.
Airlines across the world are currently facing challenges in increasing their fleets, even those with financial capacity, due to a shortage of aircraft engines. Further, the aircraft part output has also dropped in recent months, due to worker shortages.
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