The 182-seater inaugural Airbus A321 flight from Delhi, which took off from Terminal-3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport here at 1200 hours was given a ceremonial water salute after it landed at Colombo's Bandaranaike Airport at 1535 hours, Air India said in a release.
The flight will herald a new era in aviation and tourism between the two neighbouring countries, the government owned airline said, adding the new non-stop air service would also provide a link to an important gateway from the Indian sub-continent.
With the launch of the second flight to Colombo, the airline aims to cater to passengers from across segments including pilgrims and visiting friends and relations (VFR), Indian Diasporas, business fraternity, MICE segment (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions), student and medical and wellness travellers among others.
The flight number- AI 275 from Delhi will leave at 1200 hours and reach Colombo at 1535 hours except on Wednesdays when the flight will leave Delhi at 1330 hours and reach Colombo at 1715 hours, the Air India said.
The return flight AI 276 from Colombo will depart at 0820 hours, arriving Delhi at 1205 hours, it said.
According to a recent industry report, India's aviation market picked up pace in the previous fiscal with domestic traffic surging by 13.9 per cent year-on-year and international traffic clocking a 9.0 per cent growth during the period.
"Delhi being the hub for Air India, it will provide passengers from Sri Lanka, connections to flights of Air India and other Star Alliance member airlines to Europe, USA, Far East and Australia.
"Likewise, passengers arriving from these international destinations will get a convenient connection to Sri Lanka on this new flight," Air India said.
In addition, the new flight to Delhi will also provide immediate connections to many domestic destinations in India where Air India has introduced competitive fares, it said.
Besides, the new direct connection would give a fillip to the tourism industry of the two countries.
As per the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, India accounted for more than 16 per cent of the total international tourists in the previous year, placing it at number one position in tourist flow to the island nation.
Sri Lanka was ranked as the fourth largest generator of tourists to India, the release said.
Air India has wide global network of 34 destinations spanning across the USA, Europe, Far-East and South-East Asia and the Gulf.
Besides, its domestic network covers 50 destinations, including far-flung areas of the North-East, Ladakh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.