x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Airblue to fly seven days from Sharjah

The authorities have given permission to Pakistan's largest airline to fly from two destinations.

DUBAI // Pakistan's largest private carrier, Airblue, has received permission from Sharjah authorities to operate seven weekly flights to two Pakistani destinations. Airblue will operate four weekly flights serving Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, from Dec 1 and will fly three times a week between Sharjah and Islamabad, starting on Dec 15.Airblue will become the only Pakistani carrier to have extensive presence at every major aviation hub in the UAE including Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

In July, Sharjah International Airport gave Airblue permission to operate 14 weekly flights to and from four Pakistani destinations, but days before the launch of operations on Aug 14 it withdrew the offer without giving a reasons. As an alternative, the airline then stuck a deal with Abu Dhabi airport and on Aug 24 began four weekly flights from Abu Dhabi to Lahore. It currently operates 21 flights from Dubai and four from Abu Dhabi. In total, Airblue will have 32 weekly flights from different destinations in the UAE to Pakistan by the end of this year, including the seven from Sharjah.

"We are still pursuing our Gulf, South Asia and European route expansion plan," a senior Airblue executive said. "Early next year, we are planning to start flights to Islamabad and Peshawar from Abu Dhabi," he added. With the bulk of Emirates Airline operations steadily moving to the newly opened terminal three in Dubai, Airblue expects to secure additional landing slots at the airport in the near future.

Airblue has also received permission from Oman to fly three times a week between Lahore and Muscat and is negotiating landing rights for Kuwait. The airline leased two additional A319 aircraft in August and plans to use them on Gulf routes. About one million Pakistani expatriates live in the Emirates, the majority of whom live and work in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. Airblue, which has plans for an initial public offering next year to fund its US$850 million (Dh3.12 billion) acquisition of 14 Airbus A320 aircraft, has a fleet of eight aircraft.

The carrier already flies to the UK and is eyeing other European and South Asian destinations, including India and major hubs in Scandinavia. skhan@thenational.ae