Air Vice Marshal (Retd.)
Syed Ataur Rahman is the Managing Director of Shaheen Air International,
one of the two private sector airlines operating in the country. He joined the Pakistan Air Force in 1965 as GD Pilot
just before the Indo-Pak war and has remained a fighter pilot. He was
posted in Dacca, former East Pakistan, and saw action in 1971
Indo-Pakistan war. He has flown mostly Mirages and also F-7 and
F-86 fighter aircraft as well as all trainee aircrafts. During his long
association with the PAF as a combat pilot he also served as Air Officer
Commanding at prestigious Air Force Academy, Risalpur and also served as
Director General Logistics at Joint Services Head Quarter. He also
served as Base Commander Karachi and as Air Attache in the UK and was
sent on deputation as instructor to Libya and Turkey to train the
fighter pilots of their respective air forces. He retired from the PAF
about two years ago.
Open Sky Policy was introduced in Pakistan about a decade ago. What are
I have strong opinion about it. I feel that it is extremely unfair for
the civil aviation industry of the country. It should be understood that
foreign commercial airlines should only be allowed to come to the
country on the basis of bilateral agreements so that the domestic
airlines, be it state-owned Pakistan International or private, should
get something in return. The Open Sky Policy has allowed the foreign
carriers to pick up passengers from the country at the cost of the
could be done?
ATAUR RAHMAN: There
is a need for fresh negotiations with the foreign carriers about routes,
sector, frequency and timings so that domestic airlines can compete. The
agreements should be made on purely commercial basis safeguarding the
interests of Pakistani carriers, both public and private. As is, PIA as
a national airline is unable to sell Pakistan like many of its
counterparts in the region. A prime example is that of Emirates Airlines
which is selling Dubai bringing in people to the city from across the
Do you see PIA as your competitor?
Small private airline like Shaheen doesn't view PIA as a competitor.
However, PIA has seen it fit to compete with the small airline like us
instead of competing with its foreign counterparts. In doing so, PIA
only limits itself and debase itself as the national airline. It will
also not be able to break us despite causing us hardships. For instance,
we introduced a low-priced night coach domestic service a year ago and
the move was followed by PIA recently by introducing a similar service
recently. Since our overheads are much smaller than the PIA and since
our night coach service is doubled by a courier service we are doing ok
despite the competition thrown at us by the PIA. We also have contracts
with OCS, Leopard and Inland Cargo and are also negotiating with TCS to
better our revenues from our courier operations. We are carrying more
parcels on the courier service than the PIA though it has big capacity
aircraft. In addition, Shaheen is also operating a cargo service to
Dubai and owns one cargo aircraft while it has other two on charter. We
also have contract with the British Airways for cargo services.
The government has announced this week that all the airlines will be
allowed a level playing field. Your comment.
We welcome the statement. However, it is unfortunate that the PIA has
been allowed to be instrumental to develop the national aviation policy.
The private airlines should also be allowed to give the inputs. We have
not yet been taken into confidence about the policy and it is imperative
that the private airlines should be given an opportunity to make their
presentations so that the views and concerns of the private airlines
would be better understood. This is necessary so that the policy will
benefit the entire national aviation industry.
Are you satisfied with the jet fuel prices in Pakistan?
Yes. Karachi offers the lowest jet fuel prices in the region and also in
the country. Jet fuel prices at Karachi is about Rs 4 per litre less
than that at Peshawar and about Rs 2.50 per litre less than that at
What has been the post September scenario like for you?
ATAUR RAHMAN: Like
all other airlines we were also affected. What affected the aviation
industry worldwide also affected us. The increased insurance costs, fuel
prices, the fear of air travel, visa restrictions, the overflight ban
imposed by India (though it did not affect our operations directly it
did have an indirect impact) and the India-Pakistan military standoff
had a negative impact. However, the situation has improved considerably
for us at present. The insurance costs has increased drastically and
unlike PIA, which was able to absorb the costs by having its insurance
obligations covered locally, we have to keep on insurance from foreign
companies. The insurance costs have increased by a high 70 per cent
are your future plans?
We are planning to induct at least two Boeing 737-400s in our fleet by
end this year and also intend to expand our cargo operations beyond
Dubai to Afghanistan, where we have already operated such services
delivering textbooks. We have plans to cooperate with Uzbekistan