KARACHI: Air Indus, the troubled private airline, has been forced to ground its fleet and stop sale of tickets after repeatedly failing to meet safety guidelines and other regulatory requirements, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Tuesday.
The airline’s operation has been suspended from July 1 till the time it addresses the regulator's concern related to its safety track record, it said.
"Despite repeated safety directives and warnings, the operator did not make any improvement and ignored the safety instructions," it said in a brief statement.
"In order to ensure safety of passengers, the CAA has suspended Air Indus's operations," it added.
Read: Air Indus aiming to fly into international skies
This is not the first time CAA has shut down an airline on grounds of safety issues. But in all previous cases, the real cause for the drastic step was financial unviability of the carrier and reluctance of sponsors to pump in money.
Air Indus is in fact the third airline to have been grounded by CAA in the past eight years. Previously, the CAA has grounded Aero Asia and Bhoja Air.
Tuesday's decision comes as the government is trying to reinvigorate the aviation sector through a new policy, which offers tax cut on investment.
Air Indus, a venture of Karakoram Motors, entered the domestic airspace in 2013 with promise to offer passengers another option to choose from just a handful of carriers. The airline has a fleet of only two operational Boeing 737-300 jets with the CAA having pressed it multiple times to induct more aircraft if it wants to expand operation.
Pakistan’s aviation industry has seen many prospectors trying their luck with airline business. Most of the airlines have gone bankrupt, often to the embarrassment of highflying investors.
In recent years, Rayyan Air, Vision Air and Fly Pakistan Air also applied for commercial air transport licences besides Air Indus, but these airlines are yet to take off.
Pakistan had adopted an ‘open skies’ policy in the 1990s, allowing competition on the domestic routes and giving broader access to foreign airlines. More than 20 licences were issued to airliners but none except for Shaheen Air survived. Bhoja Air resurfaced under a new management a few years back but it has also been permanently grounded after a devastating air crash.
Despite a turbulent history, industry people say the sheer size of the country’s population is enough of a reason for investors to jump into the capital-intensive airline business.
This assertion seems to be reflecting in numbers as well. According to CAA, Air Indus carried 301,070 passengers or 8.6% of domestic passengers in the year which ended June 2014 – this was done by a new airline within a few months.
Air Indus was in talks to lease three Airbus 320s to bolster its operation, a company official had told The Express Tribune in May.