Contrary to the depressed economic conditions
confronted to the aviation industry around the world especially in the
wake of terrorist attacks of 9/11 which consequently brought the tourism
activity to the stagnation, the aviation business has produced
tremendous operating results during the current year.
Not only the national carrier has posted handsome
profits to the tune of Rs1.7 billion but other private sector airlines
have also produced positive financial results.
Apart from positive financial results shown by the
airlines operating in Pakistan, the national flag carrier PIA has
inducted three state-of-the-art Boeing 777 into its fleet and has
decided to increase its flying operation to over 50 destinations by the
end of the current year. The arrival of more private airlines in the
aviation business was again a strong indicator about the turn around the
aviation sector was taking in Pakistan.
A jet air strip was being developed at Gwadar port to
accommodate growing traffic on that routes and the air traffic was
expected to take a quantum jump as soon as the port becomes operative
sometimes next year.
The understanding reached between China and Pakistan
to cooperate on the international routes was another important
development which is likely to give jump into the traffic handling of
the national airline.
According to a traveling agency, the air traffic
between India and Pakistan where the revenue has already increased by
ten percent is likely to take a big leap after normalization of visa
facilities in India and Pakistan.
London-based Airfinance Journal has recently awarded
PIA "Asian deal of the Year" for the launch delivery of three
Boeing 777-200ER. The magazine recognized the innovation of first ever
pre-delivery payment financing being done under an Islamic financial
lease and $341 million Exim bank guaranteed notes being issued for the
first time for a Pakistani issuer in the US 90 day paper market.
Paying compliments to the PIA management, the Editor
of Airfinance said "it was a creative solution for the airline that
allowed it to raise cash at a time when many other airlines were
struggling to find financing. Islamic aircraft financing is still
developing and this deal has pushed the technique further, he added.
According to Ahmed Saeed, Chairman PIA, the three
Boeing 777-200ER have been inducted into PIA's fleet due to total focus
and commitment of PIA's dedicated management team and of course the
Government of Pakistan. They did whatever was necessary to reach a
successful finance close including significant equity injection and
signing of the Capetown Convention, a strong commitment of Exim bank,
the only export credit agency on cover for Pakistan and a number of
national and regional banks who participated in the Islamic financing.
All this was structured with the concerned financial
institutions by PIA's team.
In a tough global industry and even tough regional
political environment, PIA has done a complete turn around. PIA is a
profitable airline and poised to post a profit of over Rs1.4 billion at
the end of the current financial year .
The 777's have been inducted into the long haul
routes, starting with London, Chicago and Toronto and PIA has set its
eyes on expanding further and expect to start flying to 50 destinations
including Houston on May 23 and Los Angeles by the end of the year.
Airblue is yet another domestic airliner to share the
aviation business from May 14, besides PIA and two other private sector
companies i.e. Shaheen Air and Aero Asia operating in Pakistan.
The arrival of the third private sector airline is
expected to ease the traveling hassles because of heavy rush on other
carriers especially PIA on the domestic routes.
Initially, Airblue will be operating on
Karachi-Islamabad-Karachi, three flights daily and three flights between
Karachi-Lahore-Karachi. Subsequently, it will start operating
Sukkur-Multan-Peshawar flights from June 1.
Airblue had acquired three Airbus planes, which would
be pressed into service on these routes. The average age of these
aircraft is about 5 years and they are as good as new.
The airline has experienced staff, who have further
been trained with the British Airways.
The new entity has given special emphasis on a highly
sophisticated IT network to compete effectively with the existing
airlines in the market.
To differentiate from other the competing airlines,
Airblue besides offering high standard in ticketing procedures, is
focusing on special care in providing quality services on board as well
as on the ground to the travellers.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who carries a rich aviation
background especially being the chief of the national carrier PIA, is
the Chief Operating Officer of Airblue.
It is heartening to see that our aviation industry is
expanding its flight operations, fleet besides achieving better
financial results. However, the financial growth and expansion in the
fleet of the airlines would become meaningful only when the benefits of
the progress reach to the people. It is the matter of the fact that the
cost of travel especially on the domestic route is not affordable even
by the middle income group which means a huge market still remains
untapped only because of high tariffs of the airline. Actually, while
fixing the tariff we usually compare it with international standards but
unfortunately ignore that low GNP level in the country.
We should not ignore the living standards of the 90
percent of the people in Pakistan.