Information release in pages of the Nyras aviation consultant’s report last Tuesday (February 12th) by SriLankan Airlines to the Airline Pilots Guild before the Right to Information Commission (RTIC) show that British aviation consultant Nyras, hired by the Government at significant expense, had officially assessed the forecast profitability of the national carrier in 2016 as ‘weak’, pointing out that the ‘challenges facing the airline…’ are ‘…exacerbated by superfluous widebody aircraft orders and related engine contracts.’
According to information by insider sources in the aviation industry, the information released on a directive of the RTI Commission show that Nyras had advised a comprehensive ‘turn-around’ strategy, including recommending that Ceylon Petroleum Corporation charges for fuel for SriLankan Airlines should be the same as those charged in the region’s other airports. SriLankan had been forced to pay above market rates for CPC fuel.
The information release follows from an appeal filed to the Commission last year when SriLankan Airlines, after first refusing to release to the pilots, obeyed an order of the Commission to release details of salaries of its CEO and top executives. Also released were 2 wet lease agreements with PIA and termination agreements with AerCap along with Minutes of Board Meetings of SriLankan (including at then Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa’s residence) where the decision to purchase eight Airbus aircraft had been made. The entire Minutes released under RTI related to purchase of 4 A350 aircraft, lease of three A350 aircraft, cancellation of lease of 1 A350 aircraft and termination of lease of3 A350 aircraft with major losses to the State during both the Rajapaksas and the current Government.
The RTI Commission also ordered the release of reports of aviation consultants Nyras, Seabury and Seaworks on the restructuring of the bankrupt national carrier. While the reports of aviation consultants Seabury and Skyworks had been released with a few deletions, SriLankan was resisting the release of the highly awaited Nyras report citing commercial secrets. The appeal hearing is continuing with information being released in stages.
Sources in the pilots trade union meanwhile laughed at the recent media publicity over JVP MP Sunil Handuneththi’s statement in Parliament that a Board meeting had been held at the former Speaker’s residence leading to Mr Chamal Rajapaksa threatening to resign if that allegation was proved but then backtracking. It was pointed out that this information had already been publicly released last year through RTI but that neither the JVP or the media had taken the matter up. ‘All political dramas…’ said one trade unionist in the airline industry, ‘the pathetic state of the media is even worse, was the media clueless about the RTI information release last year?” he asked.
Presently another Government committee has been tasked with restructuring SriLankan Airlines headed by UNP MP Eran Wickramaratne but the public response to this has been cynical. Many recommendations in the Nyras report for ‘turning around’ the national carrier had been ignored thereafter by the Government. In 2017/18, SriLankan posted a $ 105 million loss and as at end year, cited Rs. 170 billion as accumulated losses. The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Sri Lankan Airlines had also revealed shocking details of how politicians and their favorites had run the national carrier into the ground.