KARACHI: The re-launch of Bhoja Air after a gap of 11 years and the upcoming launch of two more private airlines is a boon for the air travellers who will not only get competitive fares but also have more choice on domestic and international routes.
The two private airlines that are in the pipeline are Pearl and Indus Air and the latter has already started marketing its services.
At a time when Pakistan Railways is crumbling owing to financial crisis, the new entrants in the aviation industry are going to benefit the most because of their reasonable introductory fares, industry experts say.
The biggest success of these new airlines would be to attract the growing number of travellers instead of fighting for each other’s passengers. This is exactly what the management of Bhoja Air is targeting.
“Our target is to increase the number of air travellers through better services,” said M Omar Jalil, Director Management Information Systems of Bhoja Air. “We would not like to lure passengers of our competitors for a few hundred rupees.”
The entry of new private players will definitely benefit customers. It will not only spark a healthy competition but also improve the quality of airline services, he added.
With the growing middle class in the country, the management of Bhoja Air is confident that it will carve out its share in the market.
Private airlines are also eying international routes, especially where Pakistanis travel frequently like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. Millions of Pakistanis travel annually to the UAE and Saudi Arabia for Hajj, Umrah, jobs, tourism, etc.
Last month, Shaheen Air started Jeddah operations while Bhoja Air plans to launch flights to UAE and Saudi Arabia soon.
Jalil, who is a graduate of the London School of Economics, believes that “there is a lot of room for upcoming private airlines in Pakistan. The market is big and it is growing too.”
Jalil said that there is a direct link between economic growth and development of the aviation industry in any given country. Comparing Pakistan with Indonesia, he said the latter has seen exponential growth in air passengers over the last 15 years while Pakistan lagged behind in both aviation industry and GDP growth.
Average age of aircraft fleet in Pakistan is generally high. For instance, the average fleet age of PIA is 22 years, though it is now going to bring new aircraft, which will help the airline in reducing losses.
Aviation industry officials are hopeful that the growing competition will not only generate employment but also take private airlines to long international routes. This will give more choice to domestic travellers who usually rely on leading Gulf carriers to travel to Arab countries, Europe and even North America.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2012.
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