SHAHEEN AIR AND AERO ASIA ENJOYING HISTORY OF GROWTH

Competition proving beneficial for travelers

By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Jan 09 - 22, 2006

The GoP's decision to allow the private sector to establish and operate airlines in the country has not only opened new vistas for the investors but also led to gradual reduction in fairs. Flyers are provided incentives and the quality of services has improved. At one time it was termed 'price war' but lately PIA has also reduced fairs, despite hike in fuel cost. Therefore, it may not be wrong to say that the entry of private sector in the aviation sector, which has remained exclusive domain of the public sector, has not only ushered healthy competition but also resulted in improvement of quality of services. However, a lot more remains to be done to enable the private sector airlines to compete in the global markets, effectively and efficiently.

Two of the private sector airlines, Aero Asia and Shaheen Air deserve specific mention. Aero Asia has been the pioneer and enjoying the history of constant growth through fleet up-gradation. SAI, an offshoot of Shaheen Foundation, despite being late entrant has attained the status of second national carrier. Initially both the airlines were given permission to operate flights within Pakistan. Over the years both of these have proved their credentials to qualify for operating international flights and have been operating these flights efficiently.

Aero Asia, when commenced it operations, has to face a giant competitor like PIA, having long history, experience and above all government support. Fully cognizant of its limitations, including inferior quality carriers, Aero Asia chose to cater those who were not very particular about the quality but were certainly conscious of cost. Initially, it emerged as the second choice for the travelers. Now it can rightly boost to be the first choice on certain routes. Over the years it has also inducted newer and modern aircrafts, which offer comfortable flight at affordable cost. If competing successfully with PIA was the first achievement, attaining permission to operate international flights was another feather in the cap. Most of the international destinations being served by Aero Asia face competition not only from PIA but also from other international airlines.

The 6th May, 1993 opened a new chapter in the aviation history of Pakistan. It was the day a private airline appeared on the Pakistan's skies. The airline was commenced operations as Aero Asia, a name that is now familiar across Pakistan and Gulf region. Aero Asia is a subsidiary of Tabani Group of Companies, an established and prestigious business house. It commenced its operation from Karachi and at present has two bases, one at Jinnah International Airport, Karachi and other at Dubai's intentional airport. These two airports rank amongst the top International airports of the world and serves as the gateway to Asia and beyond. Aero Asia commenced its commercial operations with a skeletal but dedicated team. It took off from two flights per day in 1993 and has attained the status of being Pakistan's largest private airline with more than 650 domestic and international flights per month. It is expanding its network and operating the largest fleet of aircrafts. On the domestic front Aero Asia flies to Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Multan and Peshawar. On the international network it operates from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Multan and Faisalabad to Dubai, Doha, Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Recognition of passengers' needs has helped in developing customer loyalty. This loyalty is based on punctuality, safety record, increasing fleet of modern aircrafts, web based reservations and e-ticketing, superior in-flight service quality and well-planned operations. Aero Asia is a member of IATA and is registered with ICAO so as to fully cover passenger and baggage liabilities in accordance with the Warsaw Convention and Hague Protocol. According to a survey conducted by Skytrax (the leading research Advisors to the world airline and air transport industry) Aero Asia's star ranking now brings it in league with the major air carriers of the world such as Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines and PIA.

Shaheen Air was founded in December 1993 and after 10 months on account of its professional service, exceptional performance, customer support and expertise in aviation on 25th October 1994 it was accorded the status of second National Carrier of Pakistan. Since then Shaheen Air has been in a perpetual pursuit of excellence in operations and services. Since June 2004, under the new management, utmost priority was accorded to achieve the sole objective of making it a leading customer focused regional and international airline. Shaheen Air has re-emerged with a new vision and its visibility is increasing in domestic and international skies. After the re-launch, Shaheen Air has acquired a modern fleet of aircraft including Boeing 737s and Airbus A-320. To facilitate the air travel at a reasonable price, Shaheen Air is increasing its domestic and international flight frequencies. Plans are afoot to introduce more domestic flights linking smaller cities with major cities across Pakistan.

The survival and growth of Aero Asia and Shaheen Air proves the point that private sector, even with limited resources, can manage an airline successfully. It goes without saying that like any other industry private airlines also need government support. The desired support in not in the form of any exceptional incentives, but in the form of creation of even playing field and timely address of the prevailing problems.