High-end tourists and visitors to Sri Lanka are in for a high-flying treat thanks to helicopter operator Simplify’s decision to add the advanced 10-seater Bell 230 helicopter (pictured above) to its fleet.
The Sunday Times reports vice-chairman Suren Mirchandani as saying: “We believe that the capacity of the aircraft will enable us to deliver further economies to the flying passenger by reducing costs.
“As Sri Lanka positions itself as a MICE destination, it’s important for us to be able to carry large groups. Our partners in the high end of the travel trade are clamouring for larger capacity.”
At present, the company’s workhorses are a Bell 206 Jet Ranger and a jet-engined Robinson R66. Both carry four passengers plus pilot, and are in constant demand at an everage US$1,000 per charter charter.
The Sunday Times notes that Mirchandani got the inspiration to start a domestic airline 12 years ago at Galle, “realising that one day it could serve to ferry high-end travelers, both business and leisure, to a city which is now a brand name in the world”.
“Galle is iconic. Today, foreigners say we are going to Galle. Not Galle, Sri Lanka, but just Galle. Many years ago I figured we could cater to a special segment of the tourist market, for those people whose time is precious and is money,” he says.
Until 2009,says the unday Times, Simplifly was the only operator providing a helicopter service. In 2011, the Millennium Group of Singapore took a significant interest in Simplifly, which now has diversified its business to include a flying school operation (Millennium Flight Academy), a third party maintenance arm called Ready-Jet-Go plus the core charter division.
Says Simplifly: “With a choice of three helicopters and aircraft, no other airline offers you the choice that we do—operating to over 200 helipads, all 14 airports and all waterdromes in Sri Lanka.
“We pick up our customers from BIA (Katunayake Airport) and fly them straight to Galle or any destination in Sri Lanka.”