New carrier Afghan Jet International Airlines plans to start scheduled flights on April 1, starting with domestic routes operated using two Bombardier CRJ200s.
The privately owned carrier will start with scheduled services from its Kabul base to Mazar-e Sharif before expanding its network to include other Afghan cities such as Herat and Kandahar.
Helge Pettersen, the airline’s director of operations, tells Flightglobal that the carrier’s business model will share some similarities with Emirates’, with high safety and security standards, but on a regional scale.
“We are trying to model ourselves on Emirates, we would like to run a safe and efficient service and offer ticket prices that are good value for money. We want to be known as the premier airline of Afghanistan,” says Pettersen.
“Safety is always in the back of your mind. That’s why I want the crews to be rotated around regularly so they are sharp, and we also have five levels of security at the airport so passengers feel more secure flying with us than they would driving to their destination,” he adds.
Afghans of modest incomes who would prefer to travel by air than by road and those living abroad after being displaced by the recent military conflicts in the country are expected to make up the bulk of passenger traffic, but Pettersen also says the carrier has agreed a lucrative deal with the Afghan government to transport military personnel, while there is also the opportunity to act as a mail carrier service for the country.
A second phase of growth will see the airline start regional routes to Islamabad, Karachi, New Delhi and Sharjah, and then services further afield to cities such as Beijing, Frankfurt and London.
To achieve this growth Afghan Jet plans to expand its fleet quickly and is talking to Bombardier with a view to either dry leasing or buying up to three Q400s and two CRJ900s previously operated by Pluna.
The CRJ900s and any Q400s are expected to arrive in May. Afghan Jet is also considering an order for three CSeries airliners.
Pettersen says the airline will not attempt to compete with Emirates but will seek to contest markets with other airlines in Afghanistan and the wider region.
“I see our biggest rivals as Kam Air, Safi, Flydubai – although they are too strong to compete with – and Turkish have entered the market. Air Arabia has now pulled out but we are co-operating with them to start some kind of feeder or codeshare service,” says Pettersen.
Technical and logistical support has been provided by Air Arabia and Ariana Afghan Airlines.
Toward its goal of expanding onto international routes, Afghan Jet is seeking to complete IATA and ICAO safety audits in June. After that, the airline's chief operating officer will travel to Brussels in order to try to get the airline removed from the EU aviation blacklist.