KARACHI: A Dubai-based low-cost air carrier has started flights to Pakistan which threatens the business of local airlines.
Flydubai started its operations in Pakistan with its inaugural flight to Karachi on Monday. “Karachi is the 20th destination of flydubai, an airline which has nine aircraft at present and plans to acquire 50 aircraft by 2016,” said CEO of flydubai Ghaith Al Ghaith while talking to media on Monday.
Ghaith, who also travelled on the same flight, said “we are delighted to start flights to Karachi. It is a very important route for us and one we are looking forward to operating successfully for a long time to come.”
Two-way flydubai ticket is for Rs17,200 while other carriers charge around Rs22,000-24,000, a difference of 26 per cent.
Flydubai’s first flight to Karachi was marked with a protest by employees of a local airline at the Karachi airport. The protesters criticised the open-sky policy of the government, fearing that new airlines will capture market share of the local airlines operating in Pakistan.
Open skies refer to an agreement, which liberalises rules for international aviation and minimises government intervention.
“I don’t think there is any friction between flydubai and the government of Pakistan,” Ghaith said when asked about the protest against foreign private airlines.
“Flydubai’s aim is to make travel a little less complex, a little less stressful and a little less expensive and thereby encourage more people to travel more often,” he said.
“Low cost does not mean that flydubai will compromise on its aircraft; passenger safety is our priority,” added Ghaith.
Like Emirates airline, flydubai is also owned by the Government of Dubai.
“Low-cost airlines have great future as their market share is increasing all around the world,” he said.
“We are committed to developing the markets where we operate and have already seen success in markets like Beirut which has seen a 33 per cent increase in traffic, Amman (40 per cent) and Egypt (22 per cent) since flydubai started operations last year,” he said.
Ali Saif Alawani, UAE Ambassador to Pakistan, who was also onboard the inaugural flight, said ties between the UAE and Pakistan are already strong with bilateral trade worth more than $6 billion annually.
“Increasing affordable, quality and direct air travel links will only serve to strengthen our relationship,” he added.
Karachi, Pakistan’s main seaport, is one of the world’s largest cities in terms of population and is the financial centre of the country. It is home to the country’s largest commercial corporations and is the heart of trade and industry, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2010.
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