Oneworld member SriLankan Airlines will become the only airline offering direct flights from Colombo to Australia when it starts a daily service to Melbourne from October 29 using Airbus A330s.The airline said airline it was attracted by the fact Australia was home to one of Sri Lanka’s biggest expat communities, with about 50 per cent living in and around Victoria.It also saw a “tremendous potential’’ for business travel and as well as opportunities involving Victoria’s growing student population.“We recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our nations, and the addition of Melbourne signifies our strategy of optimizing the Airline’s network in line with our restructuring,’’ SriLankan chief executive Suren Ratwatte said in a statement. “ This also means that we have connected another continent to our global route map. On the other hand, given the number of Sri Lankans residing in and around Victoria, we fulfill a long felt need for a direct service. ‘’SriLankan will offer connections to Australia from the Middle East and South Asia.Chief commercial officer Siva Ramachandran saying there had been a steady increase in passengers travelling between Colombo and Australia via Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, where Srilankan offers double daily services in conjunction with codeshare partners Qantas and Malaysia Airlines.“’ Our direct services will give us a definite advantage as SriLankan is the only carrier that is able to offer connectivity of this nature at this time,’’ he said. “We also offer seamless onward connections beyond Colombo to a range of destinations in the Indian Sub-Continent.’’As of the end of its 2016-17 financial year, Sri Lankan was serving 36 international destinations from its hub in Colombo, with an operating fleet of 24 aircraft.The airline’s Colombo hub offers 10 Indian destinations with more than 100 flights a week. It will be expanding its presence in India in July by adding Visakhapatnam, Coimbatore and Hyderabad to its route network.It offers 50 weekly flights to and from nine Middle Eastern destinations — including daily services from of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha, Riyadh — as well as to holiday destinations such as the Seychelles and Maldives.The Sri Lankan government is searching for a private partner to help run the airline, which has been losing money since 2009. It made an unaudited loss before finance and one-off charges of $US15.12m in 2016-17, up from $US3.15 million the previous year, despite a record year for passenger numbers and an increase in revenue.The airline said the depreciation of the Sri Lanka rupee against the US dollar had a significant negative impact on the airline along with the relatively high cost of jet fuel in Colombo and the cancellation of more than 600 flights due to runway repairs at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport.