Sri Lanka To Grant Fifth Freedom Flight Status To Foreign Airlines After Operation Issues Of Its National Carrier: Minister

The fifth freedom right allows an airline to transport passengers or cargo from its home country to a foreign country, and then to a second foreign country without returning to its home country.
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Sri Lanka may grant Fifth Freedom flight status to foreign airlines to mitigate the operational problems faced by its ailing national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines, Minister of Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva said here on Monday.

Fifth freedom flight is the right of an airline of one country to land in a foreign country, pick up and deliver traffic, and then fly to a second foreign country. However, the Fifth Freedom rights are confined to flights that originate or terminate in the airline's home country.

Speaking to reporters about the delays and even cancellations of national carrier flights during the recent weeks, de Silva said that due to a number of issues several aircraft had to be grounded and hence the government has come up with the idea of granting Fifth Freedom flight status to other airlines.

"Sri Lanka may grant Fifth Freedom flight status to other airlines in order to mitigate the existing problems connected to the operation of its national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines," he said.

The minister said that industrial disputes in the airline had contributed to the problems.

“Pilots are allowed under international regulations to clock 100 flying hours per month. Our reports said that only 3 of our over 100 pilots staff had completed 100 hours, they have only clocked 60 hours on average. If the pilots had managed a minimum of 80 hours of flying these delays could have been avoided,” he said.

It was reported that a number of pilots had quit the airline over pay disputes and allegedly being overworked due to bad management practices.

In a statement issued in June this year, the Airline Pilots’ Guild said around 70 pilots had resigned since 2022.

The minister said the airline had incurred a loss of around 6 million dollars due to the recent flight cancellations and delays.

“The airline’s accumulated loss is currently USD 1.2 billion. We have to pay interest for that and the recent losses due to delays and cancellations will have to be added. I am seriously considering the move to grant fifth freedom flights to other airlines as a remedy”, de Silva stressed.

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