Flydubai suspends Sri Lanka flights until further notice as unrest intensifies

Budget carrier flydubai has suspended flights to Sri Lanka due to political and economic unrest in the South Asian country.

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The airline said it would refund those passengers who had booked their tickets.

“Flydubai flights between Dubai and Colombo Airport (CMB) have been suspended from July 10 until further notice. We will continue to closely monitor the situation on the ground in Sri Lanka,” a flydubai spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways said its flights to Colombo are operating as scheduled and it’s closely monitoring the situation in Sri Lanka.

“Etihad Airways passenger services between Abu Dhabi and Colombo are currently operating as normal. Starting July 14, select return services from Colombo to Abu Dhabi will make a short stop to refuel at Cochin International Airport. Etihad continues to closely monitor the situation in Sri Lanka,” said an Etihad Airways spokesperson.

A response from Emirates was awaited till the time of filing this report.

Flydubai’s statement comes in the wake of the UAE Embassy to Sri Lanka advisory, asking its citizens not to travel to Sri Lanka and also stay away from the areas where demonstrations are being held in the country.

“Due to the current circumstances, the UAE Embassy in Colombo calls on citizens in Sri Lanka to take precautions and stay away from the demonstration areas, and contact the embassy in emergency cases… It also recommends that citizens wishing to travel to Sri Lanka postpone their travel,” it said in a statement on its website.

Sri Lanka is a popular tourist destination and local airlines carry a good number of passengers between Dubai and Colombo. The budget carrier flydubai had cited Colombo as one of its popular destinations in April and saw an increase in demand for flights.

But the severe political and economic crisis is forcing UAE and other airlines to suspend Sri Lanka flights amidst fuel and food shortages in the country. Sri Lanka has been in turmoil as it barely has any dollars left to import fuel and food. Sri Lankans blame the government for massive corruption and nepotism that led the country to economic collapse.

Following massive protests, the South Asian country’s leaders were forced to flee from their official residences.

Flydubai spokesperson said in a statement that passengers who have booked to travel on these flights will be contacted and offered a refund. “We apologise for the inconvenience caused to our passengers’ travel schedules,” said the statement.

The Dubai-based airline last month said it is preparing for a record-breaking summer amidst a surge in demand for travel after the Covid-19 pandemic. It expects to carry three million passengers over the busiest summer in the airline’s history. It projected an average of 8,500 departures per month are scheduled across flydubai’s network of 102 destinations, which exceeds pre-pandemic levels.