KARACHI: Speculation related to the fate of Shaheen Air International (SAI), after its founder Khalid M Sehbai passed away earlier this year, was put to rest on Wednesday evening when his sons formally came forward to take over the management of the company.
SAI Chairman Kashif Sehbai (34) and his younger brother Ehsan Khalid Sehbai (31) as CEO announced they will continue to pursue the expansion policy of their father.
“Shaheen has no other intention but to grow,” said Kashif, speaking at a welcoming ceremony organised by Bukhari Group Chairman Rafiq Khan Bukhari. “We have relocated here (from Canada) to try and consolidate the business.”
Since Khalid M Sehbai bought a majority stake in the private carrier, which was once run by the air force, it has seen many ups and downs, even coming close to suspending operations.
Following his death in July, the market was ripe with rumours that his family will sell the stake to new investors, possibly to the Tabbani Group which used to own Aero Asia.
However, in the last few years the airline has emerged as the fastest growing in the country with a fleet of 18 aircraft and threatens to take more market share from the crisis-hit Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
For the first time since starting operations in 1993, Shaheen crossed the million-customer mark in fiscal year 2012-13 as it carried 1.061 million passengers between Pakistani cities and foreign destinations, according to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data.
It saw phenomenal growth in its share. Compared to 2011-12, Shaheen transported 43.8% more international travellers in 2012-13 whereas there was only a marginal increase of 3% in the overall number of passengers travelling abroad. In 2007-08, Shaheen carried just 280,615 passengers on international routes.
Altogether, the international traffic from Pakistan was 9.5 million in 2012-13 against 9.2 million a year before.
“We are well versed with the airline’s affairs. We were never blind to what was happening in the airline,” assured Kashif.
The airline is aiming to expand the fleet to 25 aircraft in coming months, making it the largest ever private carrier in the country and just few aircraft short of PIA.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2013.
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