Islamabad: Pakistan’s third largest private airline, Air Sial, has spread its wings for the first time beyond domestic borders with an inaugural flight to the port city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
The airline’s first flight PF716 took off from Lahore on March 29, marking its entry into the international market. Air Sial will initially operate four weekly flights from Lahore and Islamabad on Airbus A320s, reportedly with an all-economy configuration of 180 seats. The service will later expand to include Karachi, Sialkot, and Peshawar in the second phase.
The first flight was received by Pakistan’s Consul General Khalid Majid and other officials at Jeddah airport. Majid called it “a significant achievement” in further strengthening Pakistan-Saudi bilateral relations. He hoped that the new airline would enhance connectivity between the two countries, paving the way for greater collaboration and increased trade.
Airline’s international expansion
The airline has launched its flight operations amidst the peak Umrah season, providing a convenient travel option for Pakistani pilgrims making their way to Saudi Arabia. “The greatest demand for Pakistani travelers going for Umrah is Jeddah, the destination of choice for most pilgrims”, said Ameen Ahsan, CEO of Air Sial. Jeddah has been a gateway for pilgrims traveling to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
As part of its first phase of international expansion, the airline plans to add Riyadh, Dammam, Medina, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Muscat, and Kuwait to its list of destinations. In addition, Ahsan expressed the airline’s ambition to expand its reach to Europe and the rest of the world in the second phase of its expansion.
Initiative of the business community
Air Sial, launched in 2017 by the business community of Sialkot, started operating in December 2020, connecting major cities in Pakistan.
In August 2022, Air Sial secured the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority license, allowing the privately-owned carrier to start international flights to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Iraq, and Iran. Air Sial is the second major aviation initiative of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry which launched the country’s first privately-owned commercial airport in Sialkot, Pakistan’s famous industrial city renowned globally for producing top-notch sports goods and surgical instruments.
Pakistan’s domestic aviation market comprises several airlines, including Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), AirBlue, Serene Air, Air Sial, and Fly Jinnah.