"By mid-July this year, we hope to fly seven times a week to Beijing, seven times to Shanghai, four times to Guangzhou and thrice to Hong Kong, taking it to 21 flights per week," SriLankan’s chief marketing officer, G T Jeyaseelan told reporters on Friday.
"We see China as a huge potential area for development
"For Sri Lanka, China is important politically and economic-wise. We are also studying the secondary market in China. We eventually want to go non-stop to China," he said.
SriLankan now flies to Chinese destinations via Bangkok, carrying traffic both to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. China is becoming a major outbound market with a strong currency that is appreciating against the US dollar rapidly boosting the wealth of its people.
China is a large financier of state projects and was a key small arms supplier during Sri Lanka's 37-year separatist conflict that ended after government forces crushed the Tamil Tiger separatists in May 2009.
It has also backed the current Sri Lankan administration fight off a war crimes investigation.
Sri Lanka's neighbour and biggest trading partner, India, is eyeing growing Chinese clout on the island with concern as Asia's two biggest countries compete for influence around the Indian Ocean.
SriLankan is also a frequent flyer to India, Asia's second emerging economic powerhouse.
SriLankan has just been accepted for membership of oneworld, an airline alliance that has 11 members with a combined fleet of 2,500 aircraft serving 860 destination sin 150 countries.
SriLankan needs to integrate its systems with the oneworld system, before being accepted as a fully-fledged member. Cathay Pacific will be guiding SriLankn into the oneworld alliance.
“A membership takes about 18 months,” said Bruce Ashby, oneworld’s chief executive.
“For any airline, joining an alliance is one of the biggest projects they will ever undertake, impacting virtually every area of their business and supported by one of their most extensive communications programmes,” Ashby said.
Operating a fleet of 21 aircraft, SriLankan carries some 3.5 million passengers a year between Colombo and 34 destinations in 22 countries across Asia, Europe and the Middle East.