Mega Pakistani aviation deal in the offing

Karachi, August 3:

A fledging Pakistani airline is set to ink one of the country’s biggest civil aviation deals by purchasing 10 Airbus aircraft for $1.25 million.

Airblue, which took to the skies a year ago, is to sign the deal with Airbus Industrie next week in the presence of Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz for purchasing a combination of A-320 and A-330 aircraft. In contrast, flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is spending $2 million over the next 10 years on purchasing 11 Boeing-777 aircraft to replace older aircraft and to augment its fleet. Airblue currently operates three airbus A-320s on dry lease, which it will replace with the new aircraft. It subsequently plans to expand its domestic operations and also fly to foreign destinations.

While the Airblue deal has been financed from its own resources and without a government guarantee, PIA had to pledge its entire fleet and furnish a government guarantee to get funding from US Exim Bank for its expansion plans. Moreover, the PIA fleet has been pledged to a special purpose vehicle registered in the Cayman Islands, which means that any hiccups in payments could see it lose the aircraft.

“Airblue is the only airline in the private sector that is following all the conditions of the National Aviation Policy from day one,” The News reported today, “It registered its entire fleet in Pakistan and hired aircraft on dry lease while other airlines hired aircraft on wet lease. This means the entire cabin and cockpit crew of Airblue is Pakistani while the crew of aircraft hired on wet lease is not.”

“Airblue is also negotiating its engineering set-up in the country that will be the first of its kind in the private sector,” the newspaper reported.