Sino Access

March 17 (LBO) – Sri Lanka and China have agreed to expand air links following talks in Beijing this week, paving the way for 28 weekly flights, the foreign ministry said. Sri Lankan carriers would be able fly 21 weekly frequencies for passenger services and 7 weekly frequencies for cargo services to five Chinese destinations under a new deal to liberalize the bilateral air services agreement between the two countries.

“Sri Lankan Airlines has at present been operating three weekly flights to Beijing since 2005,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“This link has had a major impact on the tourism industry of Sri Lanka. In 2006, there was a 60 percent increase of Chinese tourists visiting Sri Lanka as against 2005.”

The deal came in the wake of two days of talks which ended on March 16, attended by Sri Lanka’s aviation secretary, representatives from the Civil Aviation Authority, Sri Lankan Airlines, Attorney General’s Department as well as the ministry of tourism.

Flag-carrier Sri Lankan Airlines, though majority government owned, is managed by Emirates, which owns a one third stake in the airline.

Sri Lanka’s government is also starting a