If you haven’t heard yet, the small but mighty OneWorld Air Alliance announced another member airline yesterday! This time SriLankan Airlines (UL), the skytrax 3 star rated airline based out of Colombo, Sri Lanka, will join forces with higher quality airlines like British Airways, Cathay
Pacific, Malaysia Airline, and JAL to become the 5th member airline based in the Asia/Pacific region. Not only will this open up the market to South East Asia even more, it will help OneWorld gain dominance in travel to and from Southern India and the Maldives.
The 11 member airline alliance, OneWorld (soon to be 12 members strong), has been the slowest of the air alliances to grow and has faced a number of setbacks in recent years, loosing future members such as KingFisher and Mexicana due to bankruptcy. However despite the challenges, OneWorld has continue to grow and add high quality airlines from around the world, insisting quality airlines over quantity (SkyTeam recently added Saudia). With the arrival of UL, the OneWorld Alliance will add at least three new destinations, all in southern India – Kochi, Tiruchirapalli and Thiruvananthapuram—bringing the number of OneWorld destinations to ~860 cities in 150 countries.
Although SriLankan Airlines is small, it’s slowly becoming a regional powerhouse. In the last three years the airlines has doubled in size. It now operates a fleet of 21 aircraft and UL carried 3.5 million passengers last year between its Colombo base and 34 destinations in 22 countries across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. UL already provides connections to OneWorld hubs such as Hong Kong, London Heathrow, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow Domodedovo and Tokyo Narita, and already offers flights to OneWorld focus cities such as Bangkok and Singapore.
Look for the entry of UL into OneWorld in late 2013. Between now and then UL plans to expand codeshares with Royal Jordianan airlines and S7 and will work with OneWorld sponsor Cathay Pacific to ensure a smooth transition into the OneWorld alliance.