Pakistan Air Travel Growth Among World's Fastest

IATA (International Air Transport Association) forecasts Pakistan domestic air travel will grow at least 9.5% per year, more than 2X faster than the world average annual growth rate of 4.1% over the next 20 years. The Indian and Brazilian domestic markets will grow at 6.9% and 5.4% respectively.

Source: CAA Via Express Tribune 

In a clear sign of Pakistan's rising middle class choosing air travel,  the number of domestic and international air travelers in Pakistan grew by 8% to 17.9 million in fiscal year 2013-14 compared to previous year, recording the fastest growth in passenger traffic in the last three years, according to data provided by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and published by Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper. Growth in air travel is pushing new airport upgrades and new construction to handle more passengers. Examples of new or upgraded airports include Islamabad, Multan and Sialkot.

Chinese domestic air travel market will surpass the US market to claim the number 1 spot by 2030, according to figures released by by IATA. Currently the ninth largest market, India will see a total of 367 million passengers by 2034, an extra 266 million annual passengers compared to today. It will overtake the United Kingdom (148 million extra passengers, total market 337 million) to become the 3rd largest market around 2031.

Pakistan International Airlines, the nation's state-owned carrier, is continuing to lose both market share and money in the midst of explosive growth in air travel. Pakistan's private carriers Shaheen, Air Blue and Indus Air and foreign carriers like Emirates and Saudia have benefited at the expense of PIA.

"It is an exciting prospect to think that in the next 20 years more than twice as many passengers as today will have the chance to fly. Air connectivity on this scale will help transform economic opportunities for millions of people," IATA chief Tony Tyler said in his comments on the report. In 20 years' time, "we can expect aviation to be supporting around 105 million jobs and USD six trillion in GDP," he said.

Sensing the opportunity, the government of Pakistan has recently announced a new national aviation policy, NAP 2015, to attract new investments in the aviation sector. It reduces or eliminates a number taxes and duties on investments.  Announcing the policy, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: “The present taxes and duties on the aviation sector are unjustified, and a major hurdle in the growth of travel and cargo handling through air.”

The NAP 2015 offers a bilateral “Open Skies Policy” to other countries, based on reciprocity; a level playing field for domestic and national airlines, and the liberalized aviation sector by allowing markets to determine the price, quality, frequency and range of air services options; and taxes structured and simplified in line with the best international practices to promote transportation,  spur GDP growth and create jobs.

It's good to see that the aviation sector in Pakistan is finally beginning to get the attention it deserves as a growth market to increase investment, improve service to travelers and create new jobs.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on April 11, 2015 at 5:08pm

Air Arabia announced today that the city of Multan in Pakistan will join its route network next month, bringing the total number of destinations in the country served by the region’s first and largest low-cost carrier to six.

Located on the banks of the Chenab River, Multan is home to more than three million people and is Pakistan’s fifth largest city. It is an important cultural and commercial centre with a strong economy largely based on industry and agriculture.

Multan joins Karachi, Peshawar, Sialkot, Lahor and Islamabad as Pakistani cities served by regular direct Air Arabia flights from Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah International Airports.

Adel A. Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia, said: “With a population of more than 180 million and within just a few hours flight time from the UAE, Pakistan has always been a promising market for Air Arabia. We have established a comprehensive network of destinations spanning the country and brought Air Arabia’s value for money proposition within easy reach of millions of people flying between the UAE and Pakistan. We look forward to further investing in increasing our reach in Pakistan by offering more destinations and flights in the near future.”

Starting May 1, 2015, Air Arabia will operate services to Multan on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Flights will depart Sharjah International Airport at 04:45 and land in Pakistan at 08:20. Return flights will operate on the same days, leaving Multan International Airport at 09:00 before arriving in Sharjah at 10:50. Local Time.

2015 has witnessed a number of significant additions to the Air Arabia network. In January, it was the first low-cost airline from the Middle East and Africa to enter the Chinese market with the launch of services to Urumqi, the largest city in Western China. The carrier also added Isfahan and Sanandaj in Iran and Gizan in Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of the year, as well increased the frequency of services on a number of existing routes.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 12, 2015 at 7:18am

The government sold its entire stake in the country’s largest private-sector bank for $1.02 billion Saturday, the biggest so far in a series of divestitures planned to help revive Pakistan’s economy.

The government approved a strike price of 168 Pakistani rupees, about $1.68, per share, for its 41.5% stake, or 609 million shares, in Habib Bank Ltd. on Saturday, compared with the floor price of 166 rupees, or $1.66, set at the start of book-building, which began Tuesday.

Pakistan’s privatization minister Mohammad Zubair said the stake was “heavily oversubscribed,” with offers worth $1.6 billion for 955 million shares, of which $1.2 billion was offered by foreign investors.

“This is by far the largest in Pakistan’s history, the demand that we got,” Mr. Zubair said. “It’s also the largest for any Asian frontier market country.”

Of the $1.02 billion raised, the finance ministry said $764 million was foreign investment.

“The bulk of this money, $764 million dollars [from international investors], will boost foreign exchange reserves, which will stabilize the currency further, which in turn will have a positive impact on inflation,” Mr. Zubair said.

Pakistan had $16.7 billion in total liquid foreign exchange reserves as of April 3, according to the central bank.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has made privatization and divestitures from as many as 31 state enterprises major components of its plan to boost Pakistan’s economy, especially its foreign exchange reserves. Mr. Sharif’s government has already sold shares in United Bank, Allied Bank and energy company Pakistan Petroleum Ltd. A plan to sell a portion of the government’s stake in the Oil and Gas Development Co. Ltd., the country’s largest oil and gas business, for $800 million was abandoned in November because of poor investor demand.

The sale of the government’s Habib Bank stake is Pakistan’s largest capital market transaction in a decade, officials said. The government is currently working on the privatization of Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Steel Mills and several power distribution companies, finance ministry and privatization commission officials said.

Brokers and analysts said interest in the Habib Bank shares was boosted by strong participation by foreign investors.

“The response was far better than earlier expected. Nobody expected that it could cross a billion dollars,” said Mohammed Sohail, chief executive of Topline Securities, a brokerage based in Karachi, Pakistan. “Investors globally are looking at Pakistan positively, especially because of the gradual economic recovery over the last two years.”

Habib Bank has Pakistan’s largest deposit base and the most extensive network of branches. It has operations in 29 countries, according to the bank’s website. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development bought a 51% stake in the bank when it was privatized in 2004.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 31, 2015 at 8:18am

UAE’s budget carrier Air Arabia has added Pakistani city of Quetta to its list of destinations, making it the Sharjah-based carrier’s seventh destination in Pakistan.

“We now have seven of Pakistan's biggest cities covered with direct services from two airports in the UAE and we hope to add more in the future as part of our ongoing commitment to serve the country,” said Adel A. Ali, Group CEO of Air Arabia.

Quetta services will commence on Wednesday, June 17, 2015.

Quetta joins Karachi, Peshawar, Sialkot, Lahore, Islamabad and Multan as Pakistani cities served by direct Air Arabia flights from Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah airports.

On May 21, another UAE carrier, Flydubai, announced direct flights to Quetta in Pakistan from June 11, 2015, with three flights a week.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 4, 2015 at 10:48pm

The UAE has updated air service agreement with Pakistan allowing open skies approach on new points in Pakistan including Quetta, Turbat, Gwadar, Panjgur as well as increased passenger capacity to Karachi, Faisalabad, Multan and Sialkot.

The two-day negotiations between both parties resulted in signing an updated air service agreement between Pakistan and the UAE. Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director-general, General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), signed the agreement on behalf of UAE while Amjad Ali Toor, additional secretary for aviation division, signed on behalf of Pakistan. The signing ceremony was also attended by UAE ambassador to Pakistan Isa Basha Al Noaimi, Khaleej Times reported. Al Suwaidi stressed the importance of this updated agreement which will contribute to boost trade, tourism and investment between UAE and Pakistan.

During his visit, Al Suwaidi toured the new airport in Islamabad which will be inaugurated in the second half on 2016 with a capacity to handle 50 million passengers.

Ms Laila Ali bin Hareb Al Muhairi, assistant of director-general of strategy and international affair at GCAA, said that UAE ranks second internationally in term of open skies agreements.

“UAE is driven more than ever to continue its international collaboration in air transport and shall continue its far-reaching and sound advances toward opening and liberating skies with countries of the world,” she added.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 9, 2015 at 10:57am

#UAE's Air Arabia set to expand flights to #Pakistan. New flights to #Quetta, #Faisalabad added.

UAE-based Air Arabia has named Faisalabad as the latest city to join its rapidly growing Pakistan route network.
When flights to the country's third largest city start in October, Faisalabad will join Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, Quetta and Sialkot as Pakistani cities served from the UAE by the low-cost carrier.
Faisalabad is a city of more than two million people located in the province of Punjab. A major centre of industry and manufacturing, the city is estimated to contribute approximately one fifth of Pakistan's total GDP.
"Air Arabia has a long-standing commitment to serve the Pakistan market and we are proud to operate an exceptionally comprehensive route network covering the length and breadth of the country," said Adel A Ali, Group CEO of Air Arabia.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 16, 2015 at 4:53pm

Having secured additional rights of operations from the Pakistani government, Dubai-based international airline, Emirates, is all set to deprive the domestic carriers, including Pakistan International Airlines, Shaheen Airlines and Air Blue, of their share in the industry.

Emirates, which started its operations in March 1985 after getting two planes from Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), now operates in 78 countries with 3,300 flights per week.

Recently, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has given it additional rights to operate in Quetta, Panjgur, Turbat and Gwadar, diverting the local passengers from the national carriers to Emirates for direct flights to Dubai and other countries of the world.

“This is a big loss to the Pakistani airlines including Shaheen and PIA as the passengers of these cities were using services of national carriers. Three American airlines are fighting against Emirates’ operations in USA, but the Pakistani government was giving more and more rights to Emirates. This is not fair,” said a PIA official.

“On the other hand, the government has been trying to privatise PIA for the last several years. Is the government trying to sell off the country to foreigners or what? How are the domestic stakeholders supposed to flourish if the government keeps on facilitating international companies?” he questioned.

According to CAA, on June 5, 2015, Bilateral Air Services Agreement talks between Pakistan and United Arab Emirates were held in Islamabad. The talks were held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere regarding all outstanding issues.

Landmark changes in the new agreement include opening up four airports of Balochistan; Quetta, Panjgur, Turbat, and Gwadar, to five airlines of UAE for unlimited operations, a CAA official said, adding that this will facilitate the citizens of these districts to fly abroad directly from their hometowns.

However, the CAA official said that traffic rights to the airlines of UAE for Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar have been frozen at the current level for the time being due to infrastructural constraints at these airports. For Karachi, the open skies arrangements between Dubai and Karachi concluded in 1998 remains intact.

“Pakistani airlines, on the other hand, will enjoy unlimited traffic rights from all airports of Pakistan to all airports of UAE. Our airlines would also be free to operate beyond UAE to any other country of the world,” he added.

“The additional services to Karachi and the introduction of Multan to our network will position Pakistan as Emirates’ fourth most highly served country worldwide with 80 return flights a week operating between Dubai and Pakistan,” said West Asia and Indian Ocean Commercial Operations Senior Vice President Ahmed Khoory.

Moreover, the three big US airlines – Delta Air Lines, United Continental Holdings and American Airlines Group – alleged that Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar airlines received more than $42 billion in “unfair subsidies” from the Gulf government. As a result, the Gulf carriers are able to take the US airlines’ market by offering cheap flight fares, which does not make economic sense.

However, the three Gulf airlines completely denied all the allegations. The US airlines also requested the United States government to review the Open Skies agreement, through which Gulf carriers operate in US.

Emirates President Tim Clark told reports on the sidelines of an International Air Transport Authority (IATA) meeting that the airline will submit a detailed report to the US government in response to US airlines’ accusation that it was one of the carriers receiving unfair subsidies from the Gulf government. Earlier last week, Etihad also submitted a 60-page report to the US government to counter the US airlines’ allegation.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 20, 2015 at 3:40pm

#PIA starts A320 jet flights to #SKARDU in beautiful Gilgit-Baltistan #Pakistan

In an attempt to promote tourism in country's scenic northern region, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has included an A320 plane on its route to Skardu, the central valley of Gilgit-Baltistan region, said a press release issued by the airlines.

The A320 jet departed for its inaugural flight to Skardu from Islamabad airport.

"The flight carrying over 100 passengers departed from Islamabad and landed at Skardu Airport", the press release said.

The plane carried PIA's retro livery from the 1960s, a part of its 60th anniversary celebrations this year.

Previously smaller aircraft such as Fokkers, ATRs and B737s linked Islamabad with Skardu.

A ceremony was held at Skardu airport which was attended by Skardu residents to welcome the new A320 service.

According to the press release, the A320 has a much larger seating capacity and would cater to the needs of not only local population but also of tourists.

The scenic natural beauty and views of some of the world’s highest peaks attract many tourists to Skardu.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Aviation Shujaat Azeem, who was also among the passengers, remarked, "This will further facilitate tourism and economic improvement of the region towards realising the vision of the present government."

He said PIA will now operate daily flights between Skardu and Islamabad connecting the northern areas with the major cities of Pakistan

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 6, 2015 at 6:08pm

After building privately-funded airport, #Sialkot exporters to launch privately-funded airline #Pakistan

Local exporters have decided to launch a private airline with the collaboration of the Sialkot International Airport Limited (SIAL).

Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) President Fazal Jilani told newsmen here on Wednesday that the airline – Sialkot International Airline – would be formally launched within the next two weeks.

He said it would be another mega project by the local businessmen after the establishment of the airport.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 7, 2015 at 4:08pm

State-owned airline Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) privatization plans have been postponed until mid-2016, following what the government described as “legal obstacles in finalizing the transaction structure.”

In 2014, the Pakistan government agreed to a sell off parts of various strategic state-owned assets, including power corporations and steelmakers as well as PIA. The move to divest corporations was a condition of a $6.7 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund made in 2013.

Pakistan Minister of State for Privatization Mohammad Zubair said at the time of the agreement that the sale of PIA would commence in mid-2015. “The process is absolutely on and financial advisers are performing their job, [working on] the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) sale,” he said.

In 2014, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave approval for the airline to take five new Boeing 777 aircraft, in addition to an agreement for 13 leased Airbus A320s, of which the fifth was delivered in June 2015.

“With newer versions of fuel-efficient aircraft, the employees will have to put in extra efforts for turning around the corporation [prior to sale],” PIA managing director Shahnawaz Rehman said.

But government intervention and factional delays have pushed the timeline back twice already, with the original deal for a restructuring prior to a 26% IPO sell-off still subject to internal opposition and political wrangling.

In the meantime, the airline is posting continuing losses—in the first quarter, it lost PKR2.1 billion ($206 million) taking its total losses to date to $2.1 billion.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 18, 2015 at 9:23am

Gerry’s Dnata, the largest ground handler in Pakistan, has ramped up its scale of operations in Pakistan with the commencement of its service at three new airports in Pakistan investing over $4 million.

Gerry’s Dnata is a joint venture between Dubai’s Dnata and Gerry’s group in Pakistan.

To support the growth of the aviation industry across Pakistan, Gerry’s Dnata has launched services at Multan International airport (MUX) on May 1, Quetta International (UET) on June 11 and Faisalabad International (LYP) on July 11 this year.

Across the country, Gerry’s Dnata expects to increase its staff count by 140 to accommodate the new services at these locations creating local job opportunities for Pakistanis.

“We have been supporting the aviation industry in Pakistan since 1993,” said Syed Haris Raza, Vice-President of Gerry’s Dnata.

“This expansion will help the industry continue to grow and meet the needs of the travel and cargo communities.”

“The aviation industry in Pakistan continues to grow, and as a trusted partner, our goal is to ensure the smooth handling of flights, passengers, and cargo across the country. Our new locations add cargo capacity, passenger handling capabilities and create new jobs—a good thing for the industry and the economy,” added Raza.

The new airport locations increase Gerry’s footprint to seven airports across Pakistan, including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, and Peshawar, and makes it the largest ground handler in Pakistan, now able to welcome over 3 million passengers in and out of these locations every year.


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