A ‘timely’ achievement | Daily News

A ‘timely’ achievement

The proceedings of the Presidential Commission probing the goings-on at SriLankan and the now-defunct Mihin Lanka published in all the daily newspapers generally make for grim reading. Yes, SriLankan has already nosedived into massive losses and debts and the Government will again be looking at finding a strategic partner for the airline in a few months, after several previous attempts failed.

But once in a while comes a news item that pleasantly surprises you and restores faith in the idea that every country should have a national carrier. We pen these lines after learning that SriLankan Airlines has achieved the remarkable feat of being named the world’s most punctual airline for September 2018, in the key categories of ‘Global Airlines’ and ‘Major Airlines’, by the flight data analysis company Flightstats.com.

An extraordinary 91.37% of SriLankan Airlines’ flights in September 2018 were on time, according to an analysis by Flightstats. SriLankan’s punctuality was far ahead of the giant US based carrier Delta Airlines, which was in second place with 86.74% flights on time, while third place went to the Japanese airline ANA with 86.61% on time.

This is indeed an exemplary and praiseworthy achievement by an airline once mocked as being “Usually Late” after its IATA moniker UL. This is also a rare achievement for a country known for “Sri Lanka Time”, an euphuism for being late at least by an hour. This is partly due to our laid-back, nonchalant attitude to the passage of time, but every second counts in the cut-throat airline business and it pays to take to the air on time. Even a slight delay can lead to a vicious cycle where connecting flights get affected, the aircraft’s arrival and next departure get delayed and ultimately, the entire flight network gets affected. This is why it is vital for airlines to take off on time.

SriLankan’s exceptional performance came after the airline launched its dynamic new ‘Ready to Fly’ programme at the beginning of September, to enhance its service by providing increased punctuality levels for its flights around the world. According to the airline, SriLankan’s consistently high level of on-time performance is the result of a structured process that monitors and co-ordinates the performance of all departments and individual staff members responsible for various aspects of its operations. The degree of attention given for punctuality monitoring is apparently infallibly high, with zero tolerance for slips in the process.

This performance is all the more creditable, given that a far greater proportion of delays are beyond the control of the airline. These are unforeseen events such as air traffic control related issues at congested airports, adverse weather, insufficient infrastructure at airports, industrial unrest at some airports, flight diversions due to medical emergencies, bird strikes on aircraft, and baggage issues. Moreover, all safety issues should also be attended to within these timeframes.

In addition to the punctuality recognition, SriLankan Airlines was recently honoured with a prestigious Four Star Rating in the Major Regional Airline category by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) for the second year running. The ratings are based on the feedback of passengers from around the world, who rate airlines on overall flight experience; seat comfort; cabin service; food and beverage; entertainment; and Wi-Fi. The airline has also been receiving many rave reviews recently. “The passenger experience is exemplary in every way; I’d be more than happy to fly with SriLankan again,” wrote one reviewer for the prestigious Traveller magazine (Australia).

But the one factor that made this difference is also the most important – a professional management. The airline has been making many gains since a professional management team was appointed recently. In fact, during a recent interview with CNN, Ethiopian Airlines’ CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said the one factor that made his airline the fastest growing and most profitable one in Africa was a “professional management” free of political interference, although the airline is 100 percent owned by the Government of Ethiopia. SriLankan has the potential to reach such heights if nurtured properly.

SriLankan has already made several changes to its winter schedule which we hope have been done after much research and thought. Some apparently loss-making routes such as Hong Kong and Vizag have been axed – this is a must for any airline as there is no point in flying to a destination with a non-viable load factor.

The airline should explore the possibility of returning to Continental Europe (Paris, Frankfurt, Rome etc.), one of our most important inbound tourism markets, probably after gaining a measure of financial stability (the airline continues to fly to London). Given the success of the new Melbourne flight, the airline should consider adding Sydney to its network separately or as an add-on. Other new Asian and non-Asian destinations must be contemplated and existing services must be boosted where possible and viable.

SriLankan is slowly but surely turning into an airline we can once again be proud of. There is a long way to go, but a good start has been made. The airline should fly high with the nation’s expectations on its wings.


 

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