Rat Disrupts Sri Lankan Airline Operations for Three Days

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Sri Lanka’s national airline, SriLankan Airlines, faced a chaotic situation when a rat was discovered on one of its flights, causing a three-day grounding of the aircraft. The incident has raised concerns about the impact on investor confidence for the cash-strapped carrier.

The stowaway rodent was spotted on an Airbus A330 flight from Lahore, Pakistan, to Colombo, Sri Lanka, triggering an immediate search of the aircraft to ensure that no critical components had been damaged. An airline official, who preferred to remain anonymous, confirmed that the plane has now resumed flights. However, the grounding had a significant knock-on effect on the entire schedule.

“The aircraft was grounded for three days at Colombo,” the airline official stated. “We had to ensure that the rat was accounted for before the plane could be flown. Unfortunately, it was found dead.”

SriLankan Airlines, a state-owned airline, has been struggling financially, with accumulated losses of more than $1.8 billion as of March 2023. The carrier currently has three other aircraft grounded for over a year out of its fleet of 23. Furthermore, the airline lacks the necessary foreign exchange to cover the mandatory engine overhauls.

Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva expressed concerns that this incident might deter potential investors who have shown interest in taking over the debt-burdened airline. Previous attempts by successive governments to sell the airline have been unsuccessful, with one government even offering it for just one dollar, but finding no takers.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which provided Sri Lanka with a $2.9-billion loan last year, spread over four years, has emphasized the heavy burden that state-owned enterprises like SriLankan Airlines place on the national budget.

SriLankan Airlines had been profitable until 2008 when a management agreement with Emirates was terminated due to a dispute with then-president Mahinda Rajapaksa. The disagreement arose when the carrier refused to remove fare-paying passengers from their seats to accommodate 35 members of Rajapaksa’s family, who were returning from a vacation in London.

Ironically, one of the airline’s most profitable years was in 2001, when the Tamil Tigers separatist movement attacked and destroyed several aircraft. The insurance payouts and the subsequent removal of excess capacity contributed to a boost in the airline’s income.

This recent incident involving a rat on board highlights the challenges faced by SriLankan Airlines. The grounding of the aircraft for three days not only disrupted the airline’s operations but also raised concerns about the carrier’s ability to attract investors. With a heavy debt burden and ongoing financial struggles, the future of SriLankan Airlines remains uncertain.

Source: The Manila Times

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