Air Ceylon

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Air Ceylon
Air Ceylon logo.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1947 (1947)
Ceased operations1979 (1979)
HubsRatmalana Airport (1947-1967)
Bandaranaike International Airport (1967-1979)
Fleet size2 (1979)
HeadquartersColombo, Ceylon

Air Ceylon was the former flag carrier airline of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The airline discontinued flights to Europe in early 1978 and finally ceased all local services on 31 August 1979, when it was replaced by Air Lanka and then rebranded to Srilankan Airlines later.[2]


An Air Ceylon Douglas DC-8 approaches Zurich Airport in 1977.
An Air Ceylon Hawker Siddeley Trident at Subang Airport in 1978.

Air Ceylon was established in 1947 as state-owned flag carrier airline. In 1947, the Government purchased 3 DC- 3s which were all named after queens Sita Devi, Viharamaha Devi and Sunethra Devi. Wednesday 10 December 1947, with Capt. Peter Fernando at the controls and a complement of 16 passengers, Sita Devi took-off from Ratmalana runway soon after 8 a.m. inaugurating the Air Ceylon commercial flights and headed for Palaly. After a brief stop there, the Dakota proceeded to Madras, returning to Colombo by the same route later that day.Madras-Jaffna-Trichinopoly Douglas C-47 Skytrain Services to London with two Douglas DC-4s leased from Australian National Airways (ANA) commenced in summer 1949, after ANA acquired a 49 percent stake in Air Ceylon earlier that year.[3][4] Flights to Sydney in a co-operation with ANA were started on 20 July 1950 via Singapore and Darwin.[5]

Air Ceylon discontinued all long-haul fights and gave up its partnership with ANA in September 1953 after BOAC had introduced de Havilland Comet between London and Colombo.[6][7] The 49 percent stake held by ANA was taken over by KLM in 1955.[8]

Flights to London were commenced again on 21 February 1956 using a Lockheed 749A Constellation leased from KLM.[9] The aircraft was replaced by a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation in 1958, followed by a KLM Lockheed L-188 Electra that was leased until the partnership with KLM ended in November 1961.[10] A Comet from BOAC allowing the re-launch of flights to London in April 1962. The aircraft was replaced by a leased Vickers VC10 in November 1965.[11]

From 1964 the Hawker Siddeley HS 748 became the aircraft mainly used on Air Ceylon's short-haul routes to Madras and Bombay, along with the Aérospatiale N 262, that was bought in 1967. When Bandaranaike International Airport was completed in 1967, Air Ceylon opened its hub there. A Hawker Siddeley Trident jet airliner was purchased in 1969 and it was operated on regional routes to until it was withdrawn in August 1979.[12][13]

In 1972, Union de Transports Aériens (UTA) became Air Ceylon's partner, selling one Douglas DC-8 to the airline and giving technical support. UTA ended the partnership in September 1976, leaving Air Ceylon without a European aide.[14] In 1979, Air Ceylon was shut down by the Sri Lankan government due to bankruptcy, and Air Lanka was established as new national carrier.

During that period, Air Ceylon offered multiple-stopover flights, which were leaving Colombo on three routes: To Europe, to Australia, and a regional one to India. KLM was the important partner airline, serving as general sales agent for Air Ceylon.[15][16]

Due to more modern aircraft with a longer range, fewer stops were required on the long-distance routes, reducing travel time. Air Ceylon passengers could reach additional destinations (in Europe and towards Australia) with co-operative BOAC or Qantas flights.[17]

The co-operation with BOAC and Qantas was reduced at that time, instead a codeshare-like agreement was signed with Indian Airlines. As a consequence, Air Ceylon re-launched services to Australia and expanded its European network.[18][19][20]

Terminated Destinations[edit]

Country-City Airport Code Airport Name Notes Refs
Darwin DRW YPDN Darwin International Airport Terminated
Sydney SYD YSSY Sydney Airport Terminated
Bahrain BAH OBBI Bahrain International Airport Terminated
Cairo CAI HECA Cairo International Airport Terminated
Paris CDG LFPG Charles de Gaulle Airport Terminated
Madras MAA VOMM Chennai International Airport Terminated
Bombay BOM VABB Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminated
Tiruchirappalli TRZ VOTR Tiruchirappalli International Airport Terminated
Jakarta CGK WIII Soekarno–Hatta International Airport Terminated
Tel Aviv TLV LLBG Ben Gurion International Airport Terminated
Rome FCO LIRF Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport Terminated
Kuala Lumpur KUL WMKK Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminated
Malé MLE VRMM Ibrahim Nasir International Airport Terminated
Amsterdam AMS EHAM Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Terminated
Karachi KHI OPKC Jinnah International Airport Terminated
Sri Lanka
Ampara ADP VCCG Ampara Airport Terminated
Batticaloa BTC VCCB Batticaloa Airport Terminated
Colombo CMB VCBI Bandaranaike International Airport Terminated
Colombo RML VCCC Ratmalana Airport Terminated
Jaffna JAF VCCJ Jaffna Airport Terminated
Trincomalee TRR VCCT China Bay Airport Terminated
Singapore SIN WSSS Singapore Changi Airport Terminated
Bangkok BKK VTBS Suvarnabhumi Airport Terminated
United Kingdom
London LHR EGLL London Heathrow Airport Terminated


Before ending operations in 1979, Air Ceylon had 1 Hawker Siddeley HS 748 and 1 Hawker Siddeley Trident.

Over the years, Air Ceylon operated the following aircraft types

Aircraft Introduced Retired
Aérospatiale N 262
Boeing 707
Boeing 720
Convair 990 Coronado
de Havilland Comet
Douglas DC-3
Douglas DC-4
Douglas DC-8
Hawker Siddeley HS 748
Hawker Siddeley Trident
Lockheed Constellation
Lockheed Super Constellation
Lockheed L-188 Electra
Sud Aviation Caravelle
Vickers VC10

Accidents and incidents[edit]


  1. ^ Klee, Ulrich; Bucher (1978). JP Airline-Fleets International (78 ed.). Switzerland: Editions JP. ISBN 3857581123.
  2. ^ Flight International, 26 July 1980
  3. ^ Flight International, 23 June 1949
  4. ^ Flight International, 3- February 1949
  5. ^ Flight International, 25 January 1950
  6. ^ Flight International, 17 April 1953
  7. ^ Flight International, 19 June 1953
  8. ^ Staniland, Martin (2003). Government Birds, Air Transport and the State in Western Europe. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0-7425-0124-8.
  9. ^ Flight International, 16 March 1956
  10. ^ Flight International, 14 September 1961
  11. ^ Flight International, 3 June 1965
  12. ^ Flight International, 29 May 1969
  13. ^ Klee, Ulrich; Bucher (1979). JP Airline-Fleets International (79 ed.). Switzerland: Editions JP.
  14. ^ Flight International, 26 June 1976
  15. ^ Air Ceylon 1953 timetable at
  16. ^ Air Ceylon 1959 timetable at
  17. ^ Air Ceylon 1967 timetable at
  18. ^ Air Ceylon 1970 timetable at
  19. ^ Air Ceylon 1972 timetable at
  20. ^ Air Ceylon 1974 timetable at
  21. ^ Air Ceylon 1949 accident at the Aviation Safety Network
  22. ^ Air Ceylon 1978 bomb incident at the Aviation Safety Network

External links[edit]