A new carrier is seeking to shake up Pakistan's domestic market with what it claims is an in-flight product superior to those of existing operators and the country's first application of electronic ticketing. AirBlue started operations in the second half of June with three Airbus A320s, initially flying between Karachi and Islamabad and Lahore.

Backed by a group of IT entrepreneurs, it aims to expand its network to other domestic destinations and add more A320s to the fleet in its bid to eat into the market share of existing local carriers, which generally operate older western-made and Soviet-era aircraft. It also plans international services.

Pakistan's domestic air transport market is dominated by state-owned Pakistan International Airlines, which has a market share of about 75%, and private carriers Aero Asia International and Shaheen Air International. The domestic market was deregulated in the early 1990s, leading to the launch of several airlines, some of which failed.

AirBlue says it is well capitalised and its domestic business- and economy-class products will be the first in Pakistan based on modern "international standards". The carrier says it is the first in Pakistan to go "paperless", with online bookings and electronic ticketing.

AirBlue's entry into the market with modern narrowbodies is already prompting other carriers to look at upgrading their domestic fleets. Meanwhile, competition is expected to intensify further with the planned launch of at least one more passenger airline, Royal Airlines. Royal already operates cargo services and is seeking to operate domestic and international passenger services this year.


Source: Airline Business