Pakistan airline Air Sial expands into international markets with inaugural flight to Jeddah

Air Sial, Pakistan’s third private airline commenced international operations on Wednesday with a direct flight to Saudi Arabia.

The airline will offer four weekly flights from Lahore to Jeddah, with flights available on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

Air Sial CEO Mian Amin Ahsan had earlier confirmed that the airline would make its inaugural flight on March 29, using an Airbus A320 for the Lahore-Jeddah route.

“The domestic market is typically very small in Pakistan so whenever an airline begins operations, their aim is to eventually commence international operations. Once they do so, then sky’s the limit,” he said.

The airline plans to operate flights from Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, and Sialkot in the second phase, according to the CEO.

“We plan to add Riyadh, Dammam, Medina, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Muscat, and Kuwait  in the future as part of our first phase of international expansion,” said Ahsan, “We will look at Europe and the rest of the world as part of our second phase.”

The CEO further said that the move is aimed at facilitating Umrah pilgrims and other travelers.

“The greatest demand for Pakistani travelers going abroad is for Umrah, and Jeddah is the destination of choice for the majority of them. Airlines typically commence their international operations from this route, and so have we,” Ahsan highlighted.

Air Sial’s move to expand internationally came amidst a conflict between international carriers and the Pakistani government regarding the repatriation of their funds. This issue caused some airlines, including Emirates and Turkish Airways, to restrict access to their low-cost inventory for sales agents based in Pakistan.

Air Sial – initiative of business community

Founded in 2017 by members of the Sialkot Chambers of Commerce, Air Sial commenced operations on December 25, 2020. However, the company had to wait longer than the designated period outlined by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to obtain its license to operate international flights. The CAA requires airlines to have one year of continued satisfactory operations on domestic routes before becoming eligible to operate on international routes. Air Sial had to wait for two and a half years before they were granted the license to commence international operations.

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