Months after starting a weekly flight from Colombo to Nairobi, SriLankan Airlines will increase its frequency from October due to growing demand from Asia to Kenya.

Amitabh Anthonypillai, regional manager Middle East North & Northern Africa, said the carrier is finalising plans to launch the second flight in late October.

Mr Anthonypillai said growing passenger demand and near capacity, cargo volumes have led to the move, as the SriLankan national carrier seeks to tap the rising Asian-Nairobi and other parts of the continent.

“We (SriLankan Airlines) are looking to a deeper partnership with the Kenyan national carrier as well as other regional and international carriers operating to Jomo Kenyatta to offer a more holistic product for the airlines’ travellers to Kenya,” Mr Anthonypillai said.

SriLankan Airlines started operations to Nairobi in April 2021 with the flight scheduled every Thursday to Nairobi and return to Colombo on Friday through its Airbus A330-300 aircraft.

The aircraft has 28 business class seats and 269 seats in economy and will deploy a similar model for its second weekly flight.

The carrier has positioned the flights with a cargo bias, with majority of the cargo being Kenyan cut flowers destined to Australia. The airlines takes passengers to Sri Lanka, Australia, Maldives, the Indian sub-continent, South-East Asia and China.

Early this month, Sri Lank High Commissioner to Kenya Kana Kananathan flagged off a shipment of 800,000 locally-made syringes meant to the Asian nation, a win for local manufactures through the direct flights.

The direct flights between the two cities is fast improving the fortunes of Kenyan flower firms and helping boost the battered tourism sector through the visitors drawn from Sri Lanka and the Asia Pacific region.

The launch of the direct flights comes at the back of air travel pact between Kenya and Sri Lanka, a boost to local tourism and manufacturers.

“The air connectivity established by SriLankan Airlines between Colombo and Nairobi made all the difference in the bilateral efforts to promote trade, investment and tourism… the Sri Lankan High Commission will continue to work with all stakeholders of relevant economic activities in Kenya to make the air connectivity sustainable and commercially viable,” Mr Kananathan said.

Ruwan Fernando, CEO of Mayleen Limited— the passenger service agent for SriLankan Airlines in Kenya, said the direct flights between the two countries have reduced passenger costs and travel time.

“We are incredibly pleased to have many visitors travelling to Kenya by SriLankan Airlines from its Asia Pacific network. The movements indicate Kenya’s pivotal role as an important business and leisure destination in the African continent, boosting the local travel and tourism sector,” Mr Ruwan said.

The direct flights have cut the travel time from Nairobi to Colombo to about six hours, from nearly 13 hours when one had to do the indirect flights through the Middle East.