Suren Ratwatte is an accomplished airline pilot, executive and researcher.
He was interested in aviation from a young age and graduated from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1983, with a Bachelor of Aeronautical Science.
He began his career as an airline pilot in 1984 with Air Lanka – Sri Lanka’s national airline. Having operated the Boeing 737 and Lockheed L-1011 aircraft types at Air Lanka and having gained a reputation as one of the most promising young pilots, he joined the Emirates Airline in 1989.
During his tenure with Emirates, Suren became a Commander of multiple aircraft types and was among the world’s first pilots to Captain the Airbus A380 – the world’s largest passenger aircraft. During this period, he also held several managerial roles in addition to his flying duties.
In 2015, he bid adieu to his flying career after over 19,000 flight hours, to embark on the next stage of his aviation career – having been appointed the Chief Executive Officer of SriLankan Airlines as well as its low cost sister-carrier Mihin Lanka.
When Suren took over – SriLankan was in a crisis, having come under the threat of excessive competitor capacity on its traditionally strong European long-haul routes and facing a rising fuel price. He executed a successful restructuring program at SriLankan that focused on a new network strategy focusing on growing regional markets and greater use of narrow-body equipment. The new strategy delivered a significant reduction in its cost base and positioned the carrier to resume its growth by focusing on untapped opportunities.
Part of the strategy was also the absorption of sister-carrier Mihin Lanka into the mainline, aimed at building a stronger brand across all markets, unifying the strengths and delivering greater synergies. This successful merger was carried out in less than three months – achieving one of the fastest and smoothest transitions to a single AOC in the industry in recent years – and delivered benefits exceeding the initially set targets.
During Suren’s tenure, SriLankan grew its fleet and destination count to the largest ever in the history – with a significantly better financial performance in comparison to the years prior-to him taking over.
In 2018, Suren retired from SriLankan to pursue other interests and is currently acting as an independent consultant and a lecturer, while enjoying what he loves the most after aviation – cycling.
Suren is a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, a published human factors practitioner on aviation, and also holds a Master of Aeronautical Science specialising on Human Factors and Safety, from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Society. He was also one of the featured personalities on Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book ‘Outliers’, for outstanding crisis management skills.