China was the first country to implement travel restrictions following the initial COVID-19 outbreak before most of the world followed suit amid the rise of the pandemic. Around three years later, the country still has strict requirements on international travel, while its neighbors have opened their doors.

Valuable market

There are high hopes for China-bound travel in 2023. Other East Asian regions, such as Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, finally relaxed restrictions in recent months. However, mainland China is still largely cut-off.

In previous years, SriLankan Airlines flew to the likes of Chengdu, Chongqing, and Kunming. More recently, it has prioritized routes to Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai. Regardless, activity has been limited due to the ongoing stringent travel restrictions within China.

SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330-343

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

A word from the airline

SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage emphasizes that the global aviation industry is expected to make a full recovery from the pandemic downturn by next year. As such, his airline’s plans align with the market forecasts. Along with China, the carrier is keen to boost its presence at the airports of another Asian counterpart, India.

He shares:

“Network-wise, we are in the process of restoring our capacity to pre-pandemic levels and plan to add more capacity once our fleet is strengthened. We also anticipate China to reopen for commercial aviation next year and look forward to reestablishing our services to the fullest for the Chinese market. Our operations to India will also be increased in 2023.”

With SriLankan Airlines’ geographical positioning, there are several opportunities to connect to China from Colombo. There are also numerous prospects to head across the border Asia-Pacific region from the airline’s location in the Indian Ocean.

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SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330-343

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying


National motives

The passenger activity goes both ways. Just this week, the Sri Lankan embassy in Beijing hosted a Sri Lanka Tourism and Culture Event to encourage major Chinese travel operators to promote Sri Lanka as a tourism hotspot. Altogether, there are numerous leisure and business opportunities to be had across the board on Sri Lanka-China routes.

SriLankan supports this notion. As Pathirage puts it:

“As always, SriLankan is entirely committed to supporting the national strategic plan to develop the Sri Lankan tourism industry. Many of our internal plans therefore will be geared toward supporting the national economy through the regrowth of tourism. From a financial perspective, our priority is to return to profitability, and we expect to record an operating profit for the current financial year that ends in 2023.”

Notably, Chinese stocks have been increasing over reopening hopes. There are expectations that the nation will relax conditions early next year. Once the situation improves, SriLankan won’t have much trouble packing its Airbus A330 aircraft on routes to the country as 2023 gets fully underway.

What are your thoughts about the Sri Lanka-China aviation market? What do you make of the overall opportunities to be had on these routes? Let us know what you think of the airline’s plans and their prospects the comment section.

  • srilankan-airlines-ceo-interview-capa-live-getty

    SriLankan Airlines

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Year Founded:


    Richard Nuttall

    Sri Lanka


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