KARACHI: Shaheen Air International (SIA) has “temporarily suspended” its flight operations to/from Kuala Lumpur on the findings that flying on the route with big airplanes was not commercially viable, said an official on Saturday.
The airline could manage to fly for about two-and-a-half months on the route. It started operations on April 22 and its latest flight arrived at Lahore airport from Kuala Lumpur on July 2.
“We were operating A320-200, a 326-seat plane and it was too big a plane to be operated on the route. It was not commercially viable,” said Zohaib Hassan spokesperson at SIA.
“For sure, we will resume operations on the route in the next four-five months with the induction of new smaller airplanes in our fleet,” he said.
He said a number of new smaller airplanes would be inducted in the fleet sometime in November-December. “It is too early to say which particular airplane we would use on that route. However, I can tell you that we may run a plane which could accommodate 150-160 passengers or 200-250 passengers,” he said.
“[Almost] all the other airlines operate on the route [to/from Kuala Lumpur] use small passengers’ planes,” he said. At present, different three or four options are under consideration. “Commercial viability would remain on top of the agenda of flight resumption,” he said.
Earlier in April, the airline had announced to operate two direct flights between Karachi and Kuala Lumpur every week and another two direct flights between Lahore and Kuala Lumpur.
It was the only airline to have operated direct flights between the two countries, it was learnt.
Sources added that the airline has failed to keep its operations smooth on the route to/from Kuala Lumpur. It was consistently rescheduling its flights on the international destination due to shortage of passengers on the route. The Malaysian government has also taken notice of this.
A source added that “the airline had to fly from Kuala Lumpur with around a dozen passengers only on the board of a plane which could have accommodated as many as 326 passengers. This was causing huge financial losses to the airline,” he added.
A320-200 inducted in the fleet
Shaheen Air International had inducted a long-haul and wide-body Airbus, A320-200, on Thursday into its fleet. This was the fourth induction of the long-haul airplane since April. The plane would be used on international routes, as the airline operates on 14 international destinations, including Saudi Arabia, Bangkok and Manchester.
“The wide-body Airbuses are being planned to use for Hajj operations this year,” said an official.
He said the fleet size would increase to 35 from 26 at present by December 2017 with the induction of some eight small, the narrow-body airplanes.
The airline has recently said that it flies over 3.5 million passengers per annum.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2016.