Shaheen Air, a name that a long associated history stretched over 20 years of aviation business in Pakistan Aviation. The Shaheen Foundation founded shaheen Air. A trust organization created for the welfare of Pakistan Airforce retired officers and their family members. Shaheen Airline remained under the foundation till the late 90s. Later the airline was taken over by the Sehbai family. The airline was the longest-serving private airline in Pakistan until it declared bankruptcy in 2018.
Rise of Shaheen Air
Shaheen Air was considered the second national flag carrier of Pakistan. Shaheen airline was formally launched in 1993. It operated both domestic and international routes. Shaheen Air was the first Pakistani private airline to operate direct flights between Guangzhou, China, and Lahore, Pakistan. It was also the first Pakistani private airline to operate direct flights to Pakistan and Malaysia. It was also the first Pakistani private airline to operate Airbus A330 wide-body aircraft.
Shaheen Air operated between Pakistan and ten other countries. The airline operated several fleets during its operation. The airline started operations with Boeing 737-200. During its operations, Shaheen Air operated several leased Tupelov TU-54 and Airbus A310 aircraft. Most of the old fleet was phased out and replaced by Boeing 737-400 till the early 2010s when airlines started to replace Boeing 737s with Airbus A320s. Shaheen Air introduced Airbus A330s in 2013, and they operated for the airline for at least 6 years. Later in 2017, Shaheen Air replaced its aging A330-300s with Airbus A330-200s.
Shaheen Air was an icon for the private airline industry as it flourished over the years. The demise of Shaheen Air started after the airline faced alleged cash leakage from some of its foreign stations. Eventually, in October 2018, the airline completely ceased operations leaving more than 5000 people unemployed.
The demise of Shaheen Airline
The airline was owned by two brothers of the Sehbai Family, Kashif & Ehsan Sehbai. Shaheen Air was growing exponentially, and it was extremely focused on rapid expansion until 2017. Shaheen Air operated a total number of 19 aircraft when it was on the days of exponential growth. The primary customer base was the domestic passenger and labor class traveling to Middle Eastern countries.
In October 2017, Chairman Shaheen Air, Kashif Sehbai, appeared in an interview on a local TV Channel and accused Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority’s higher management. Chairman Shaheen Air accused PCAA of illegally holding their newly inducted aircraft.
He also accused of exploitation of bribes asked by PCAA. During his interview, he indicated that if the Civil Aviation Authority Pakistan does not ease their illegal sanctions on Shaheen Air, they will shut the airline in the next two years. History was made, exactly one year after this interview, Shaheen Air ceased operations in October 2018.
Shaheen Air was truly an icon for Pakistan’s private airline industry. The demise of Shaheen Air was beneficial for the remaining three airlines. PIA, being the largest Pakistani airline, was the primary beneficiary after the exit of Shaheen Air from Pakistan’s airline market.
Before the fall of Shaheen Air, they were operating a total fleet of 15 aircraft. These aircraft were in an all-economy configuration. Considering the local industry, the exit of 15 aircraft from the market, and the exit of total revenue seats, the remaining airlines benefited from this opportunity. The market share was divided on the remaining aircraft of Airblue, Serene Air, and PIA.
Read More: Reviving PIA with Restructuring (Part 2)
Mostly in the mainstream media, it was noted that from 2018, PIA saw an increase in revenues. The government officials praised the PIA team for better revenue activity. However, it was an illusion created by the demise of Shaheen Air since the passenger share was divided on the remaining airlines. PIA is the largest operator, took the most out of this opportunity, and encashed it.
The fall of an airline that operated for more than 20 years was truly a setback for the local aviation industry.