Airblue Airline is Pakistan’s leading private airlines that have survived for more than two decades in the very complex Pakistani aviation industry. Pakistan is a third world country with numerous instabilities that has significantly impacted the expansion of Airblue. The airline was started by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Tariq Chaudhry back in 2003 and it began its domestic operations to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad in 2004.
During its first year of commencement, it made its mark as a promising private airline by facilitating approximately 400,000 passengers with a load factor of 90%. These soaring stats allowed the private airline to compete with the nation’s airline that is Pakistan International Airlines.
During the previous decade, Airblue has expanded to different domestic and international routes. However, most of them were short-lived. During its early success, Airblue expanded its domestic routes to Quetta, Rahim Yar Khan, Gawadar, Faisalabad, and Sialkot, which were later terminated.
As far as international expansions are concerned, Airblue started international destinations starting from UAE and Saudi Arabia. Airblue expanded exponentially in the middle east. Airblue operated flights to Kuwait and Oman as well. Airblue stretched its wings to the United Kingdom as well. Initially, UK flights were operated via Istanbul on Airbus A321s. The stop in Istanbul was a refueling stop.
Later in 2012, Airblue acquired wide-body airliners. Airblue acquired two Airbus A340s on dry lease to operate direct flights between Pakistan and UK. Due to its quad-engine configuration, A340s did not prove to be the right choice for airblue. Due to the high operating cost airblue had to shut its UK routes and return the leased A340s before the lease period was over.
After the closing of UK routes, airblue started to close some of its loss-making middle east routes as well. Currently, airblue is only flying to UAE and Saudi Arabia focus cities. Airblue is planning to acquire A321 neo(s) to restart UK routes.
Airblue Policy Shuffle
After the A340s were returned to lessors, airblue adopted this policy to stabilize the focus city routes. Also, airblue adopted this policy to acquire the aircraft that it has leased previously. Airblue currently has a fleet of 9 A320 family aircraft. After the departure of A340s from the fleet, airblue has decided to stick to only the A320 family. Airblue’s latest variants of the A320 family i.e. Airbus A321 neo will be joining the Airblue fleet shortly. Currently, these brand new birds are stored in Germany.
Due to the COVID-19, most airlines have deferred their fleet and network expansion plans. They are almost surviving at least to sustain their current network. Their expansion strategy is a little different from conventional airlines. Airblue believes in vertical expansion where they reduce their operating cost. Having their own ground handling infrastructure is evidence that airblue focuses on vertical expansion.
As a part of vertical expansion, Airblue has adopted this policy to own rather than continue the lease of its airplanes. The owned aircraft will reduce airblue’s operating costs will surge. However, airblue’s current fleet is completely leased.