Air Lanka was set up by the Government of Sri Lanka in July 1979 following the closure of Air Ceylon in 1978. Initially, the new air carrier operated two Boeing 707 jets on lease from Singapore Airlines but Air Lanka never returned the Boeing 707s, which were purchased in 1979, while a Boeing 737 was acquired for shorter routes. During the 1980s, the airline increased the number of destinations served and made additions to its fleet. By 1990, Air Lanka served 26 destinations. In December 1992, the airline purchased its first Airbus A320.
Air Lanka, which was state owned, was part-privatized in 1998 when Emirates and the Sri Lankan Government signed an agreement for a ten-year strategic partnership. This agreement included exclusive rights for all aircraft ground handling and airline catering at Colombo-Bandaranaike airport for a ten-year period. Emirates bought a 40% stake worth US$70 million (which it later increased to 43.6%) in Air Lanka, and sought to refurbish the airline's image and fleet. The Government retained a majority stake in the airline but gave full control to Emirates for investment and management decisions. In 1998, the Air Lanka brand was abandoned and SriLankan Airlines was born. The agreement was terminated in 2008 and SriLankan Airlines operates independently.
Air Lanka Route Network1985/86
The way I see it, you can either work for a living or you can fly airplanes. Me, I'd rather fly.
- Len Morgan -
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