LAHORE -  As many as six new private airlines have applied for regular public transport (RPT) licence to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and are likely to start their flight operations during the first half of this year.

These airlines are Liberty Air owned by Ch Munir and Mian Amir, Go Green Airways, Elahi Group, Danish Elahi and Arshad Jalil, Askari Air Pakistan, Army Welfare Trust (AWT), United Airways Pakistan Limited by Adnan Tabbni, Air Sial, combined owner, Sialkot Chamber of Commerce, and Afeef Zara Airways owned by Rashid Siddiqui. Of these airlines, Air SiaI, Askari of Army Welfare Trust, Go Green, revival of Bhoja under the new name, and Afeef Zara are likely to launch air operations during the first half of 2018 or not later than October.

An aviation expert said although the number of airlines is good, they would not meet pure domestic traffic requirements. In the recent years, pure domestic traffic, after grant of international traffic rights to Gulf countries carriers from Multan, Quetta and Faisalabad, has registered a declining trend. Furthermore, it will not have any positive impact from job-creation point or for that matter building up of infrastructure in the country as the owners of the airlines would get planes on dry lease and other services through outsourcing process. These airlines would neither contribute to the upgrade of the aviation industry nor to the creation of job opportunities for relevant skilled people.

The federal government should revise its aviation policy 2015 as heavy taxes have been levied on the airlines in the new policy, while the paid-up capital requirement has been increased from Rs 100 million to Rs 500 million. The import duties for parts and engineering facilities are not being ended or reduced to make things competitive with other countries to promote maintenance/overhaul facilities in the country.

PIA is the only airline operating as an industry having hangers flight kitchen; its own simulator is a source of creating job opportunities for skilled labour and other professionals; its viability has been compromised by unbridled grant of traffic rights to GCC carriers.

PIA has lost its business due to poor aviation policy and other factors as the national flag carrier’s share over the years in the international market has dropped from 49 percent to 20 to 23 percent. PIA has also reduced its international destinations from 50 to 20 due to poor load of passengers.

Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has received an application for issuance of the regular public transport (RPT) airline licence from Afeef Zara Airways. The website of Afeef Zara Airways displays a picture of the sky with the caption 'Come fly your dream’. There is a ‘coming soon status’ on the website with the picture of an Afeef Zara airplane.

Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has received another application for issuance of the regular public transport (RPT) airline licence from Liberty Air. Nothing more is yet known about the airline.

Similarly, Askari Air Pakistan has also applied for RPT licence. Askari is another private airline that will work under Fauji Foundation as well as with the private business partners.

United Airways Pakistan Limited (Air Pakistan) management has also applied for the issuance of regular public transport (RPT) airline licence.

Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has received yet another application from Go Green for issuance of the regular public transport (RPT) airline licence. Go Green Airways was launched officially on October 9, 2017, but it is waiting for its pilot registration from the authorities concerned.

Air Sial is a privately owned airline that has been issued a licence by PCAA to start domestic flight operations. Air Sial is an airline owned by Sialkot Chamber of Commerce. The same company has already developed the first private airport in the city. The company will start its operation with the four planes it currently owns.

In order to make aviation scenario conducive to Pakistani airlines, the aviation policy needs a major review to reduce the number of international gateways. All the major airports are under-utilised and uneconomical to attract foreign investors. The situation can become further worse when the new Islamabad airport will be operational and utilised to its full potential. The requirement at present is to promote hub-and-spoke concept which will generate more international domestic traffic and result in better utilisation of major airports at Islamabad and Lahore.