The competition for passenger air traffic is about to
heat up once again for the benefit of domestic travelers with the
granting of licenses to two new commercial airlines by the Civil
Aviation Authority. Once again because four private airlines — Bhoja,
Hajvery, Safe and Raji — wrapped up their operations years ago leaving
the market open to the remaining operators — the national flag carrier
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and two smaller private operators,
Shaheen Air International and Aero Asia.
While sources in the aviation industry seem to
underplay the impact of the closures of all private airlines except the
remaining two by saying that it helped to balance out the sharp decline
in the passenger air traffic in the wake of 9/11, the fact remains that
it deprived the air travelers of choose in more ways then one. The
absence of choice also resulted in increased fares by the three
remaining airlines which could not had been possible if the private
airlines were still operative today. In addition, what could justify the
increase in airfares if the supply has really been in excess of the
demand as claimed by the sources?
The interest shown by the two new private airlines
granted licenses itself proves that a certain niche of the market is
still available for new operators. It also shows that the slump in the
aviation industry is over, or at least nearing its end.
Royal Airlines (Pvt) Limited became the first airline
to get the Registered Public Transport license under the new aviation
policy in October last year while airblue was the second airline to get
the license. However, airblue is in the final phases to start its
operations in mid next month while Royal Airlines, which has
successfully being operating chartered flights on domestic as well as to
Dubai for last two-and-half years, has yet to finalise the details of
its commercial flights dometically.
High placed sources in airblue informed PAGE
that it has purchased three A-320 aircraft directly from the Airbus
company on dry lease meaning that the entire cockpit and cabin crew as
well as maintenance of the aircraft would be done by the airline itself.
The cockpit and the cabin crew is under training at present while the
engineering and the technical staff has also receiving appropriate
training at the Airbus facilities. The entire staff and workers of
airblue would thus comprise only the nationals.
Sources also told PAGE that airblue would
initially operate 15 flights on major sectors of the country daily
including 3 Karachi-Lahore-Karachi flights, 3 Karachi-Islamabad-Karachi
flights and one circular Karachi-Sukkur-Multan-Karachi. Each of the
three A-320 aircraft in airblue's fleet has 126 economy — and 20
business class seats. "We aim to offer a world-class service on
aircrafts which are just 5 years old compared to aircrafts of our two
competitors in the private sector, the average age of which is 15 year.
We aim to compete with the PIA with primary focus on service and yet at
the same time intend to offer attractive fares to price-conscious
passengers on the one hand and greater flying options to
schedule-conscious travelers. Our competitive fares are based on revenue
management concept to allow our travelers best value for their money
while for the schedule-conscious passengers we have decided to always
have a back-up aircraft at Karachi. We would also offer heavy discounts
for senior citizens, night coach, students and various other such
discounts and have a very strong IT back-end to market it on the
Airblue, the second company to get the aviation
license under the new aviation policy, is a public limited company
formed in May this year under the Companies Ordinance 1984 an it will be
listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange. It has a paid-up capital of Rs 100
million as required by the new aviation policy and has also met all
other requirements. It is in the process of getting the Air Operator
Certificate by the CAA and is ready which would allow it to commence
domestic operations next month.
The Managing Director of Royal Airlines, the first
airline to be granted the airline license under the new aviation policy
in October last year, Capt. Aijaz Ali Faizi, said that the passenger
operations would be an extension of the airlines' freight operations.
"We acquired the scheduled chartered license about 3 years ago and
been successfully operating on domestic routes — Karachi, Lahore,
Sukkur, Multan and Islamabad — as well as to Dubai for the last
two-and-half years with a fleet of 4 Russian aircraft — two AN-12 with
a 18 ton cargo capacity each and two AN-26 each with a cargo capacity of
5 ton. We were not only the first airline to get the airline license
under the new aviation policy but is also the first, and the only
airline, to operate dedicated freight services within the country. We
have fulfilled all the prerequisites for the license including the
minimum paid-up requirement of Rs 100 million plus ban and cash
guarantee of Rs 10 million each. We have played an important role to
promote exports because we do not only carry captive cargoes from almost
also courier services here to Dubai but also ship many other items
including fresh fruits & vegetables, seafood."
"We expect to commence passenger operations by
end first quarter next year with focus on service, the primary factor
that distinguishes one airline from another in a business where the
operators fly more or less the same aircraft to same destinations within
the same scheduled time."
The airblue will become the fourth airline to operate
on domestic routes next month in a market 75 per cent of which is
dominated by the PIA and the rest by the two private airlines at
present. It is, and should be, expected that it would help provide
choice to the domestic air travelers in more ways than one.