By Linnea Ahlgren

While on a flight to Malé in the Maldives on Wednesday, a SriLankan Airbus A320neo had the bad fortune to get hit by an airport ground service vehicle. The aircraft, one of only four narrowbodies currently active in the airline’s fleet, seems to have suffered damage to one of its horizontal stabilizers and remains on the ground.

No replacement yet

Earlier today, a SriLankan Airlines A320neo was damaged while at Malé International Airport, the main international gateway to the tourist destination of the Maldives. The four-year-old aircraft, registered as 4R-ANB, was unlucky enough to have an accidental altercation with a ground service vehicle while on its jaunt across the Indian Ocean.

The plane was operating flight UL1115, departing Colombo at 13:13 local time. It arrived in Malé after a flight time of one hour and nine minutes. The aircraft was scheduled to operate the return flight UL1116, departing at 15:05. However, the jet remains on the ground, and according to flight data, SriLankan has yet to dispatch a replacement aircraft and operate the flight.

While the exact nature of the incident is still unknown, photos following the run-in have emerged. From them, it would seem the airplane suffered damage to the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator.

Simple Flying has reached out to both SriLankan Airlines and Malé International Airport for further details on how the incident occurred but was yet to receive a response at the time of publication.

Skeleton fleet of narrowbodies

4R-ANB is one of two A320neos in SriLankan’s fleet. The other, 4R-ANA, is currently listed as parked. The airline’s five A320-200s are all also listed as inactive, as are its sole A321-200 and one out of four A321neos.

With only three other narrowbodies currently in service, it is not strange that SriLankan is yet to deploy a replacement to operate the Malé to Colombo flight, despite the flight time between the two averaging somewhere close to one hour.

Three flights per day during brighter times

Prior to the pandemic, SriLankan was the largest foreign carrier at Malé, operating 21 flights per week. Currently, it is operating the service six times a week as flights UL101 and UL102 with its fleet of Airbus A330 widebodies. The additional narrowbody flights of UL1115 and UL1116 are scheduled for once a week on Wednesdays.

Sri Lanka has been hoping to initiate a travel bubble with India in order to revive the island’s ailing tourism industry. However, as India’s medical facilities are currently crippled by the country’s stampeding second wave of infections, it looks as if this could still be some way off.

On the other end, the Maldives is looking to attract more tourists with a ‘vaxcation’ scheme, offering the jab to travelers who may not yet be eligible in their home countries.