Airblue Limited (styled as airblue) is a private airline with its head office on the 12th floor of the Islamabad Stock Exchange (ISE) Towers in Islamabad, Pakistan. It is Pakistan's second largest airline with over 20% share of the domestic market. Airblue operates scheduled flights operating 30 daily services linking four domestic destinations and international services to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Muscat and Manchester. It carried 1.4 million passengers on domestic flights in the 2006–07 fiscal year. Its main base is Jinnah International Airport, Karachi.
The airline was established in 2003 and started operations on 18 June 2004 with 3 leasedAirbus A320-200 aircraft serving Karachi-Lahore and Karachi-Islamabad with three daily flights in each direction. The airline was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan.
During the first year the airline became very popular, which allowed the airline to compete directly with the flag carrier PIA and the two other private carriers. This allowed the airline to expand into more cities in Pakistan including Peshawar, Quetta and Nawabshah. On 14 August 2005 (Pakistan's 58th Independence Day) Airblue launched its first international flight from Karachi to Dubai. On June 4, 2007, Airblue launched its inaugural flight to Manchesterusing the Airbus A321.
Previously the airline's head office was on the ground floor of the Saudi Pak Building in Islamabad.
Airblue serves the following destinations (at July 2011). all UK flights have a scheduled fuel stop at Trabzon, in Turkey, both ways, in the past Ankara was used for this.
- Muscat - Muscat International Airport
- Islamabad - Benazir Bhutto International Airport [Focus City]
- Karachi - Jinnah International Airport [Hub]
- Lahore - Allama Iqbal International Airport [Focus City]
- Peshawar - Peshawar International Airport
- United Arab Emirates
- Abu Dhabi - Abu Dhabi International Airport
- Dubai - Dubai International Airport
- Sharjah - Sharjah International Airport
- United Kingdom
- Manchester - Manchester Airport
Airblue also previously served Faisalabad, Gwadar, Nawabshah and Quetta in Pakistan.
Airblue currently operates a mixture of Airbus A321s, A320s A319s. All aircraft are in a 3 by 3 all economy layout. There are several overhead screens located after several rows. The airline dropped its Business class section due to exogenous economic factors. The layout was 2 by 2 with inflight televisions and leather seating and the cockpit of the airblue planes are all digital.
Airblue was the first airline in Pakistan to introduce e-ticketing, wireless check-in and self check-in kiosk facilities. The airline also became a member of Sabre system that is used by over a hundred airlines to help it with ticket automation service.
OnAir has announced an agreement with Airblue to launch Mobile OnAir voice and data services on up to 12 of its Airbus A320 aircraft beginning in 2009.
Frequent flyer program
Airblue frequent flyer program is called Blue Miles. Passengers are able to initially start on the base level where sign up is free. Once passenger earn enough miles, there are upgrades to the Blue Card followed by the Platinum Card. In May 2009, the airline formed an alliance with The Royal Bank of Scotland Limited (RBS) to launch its summer promotion on its credit cards.
Airblue inaugurated its own premium lounge at Jinnah International Airport, Karachi in November 2008. Nicknamed, the Blue Lounge International, it was designed for business class passengers, credit card holders and privileged customers. The lounge offers a number of Internet facilities, cable television, newspapers and magazines, massage chairs as well as a snack bar. It is located in the international terminal of the airport.
Joint venture with JS Air
To comply with Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations the airline started operating on socio-economic routes by flying to Nawabshahin central Sindh.
To overcome the issue of non-compliance Airblue entered into a joint venture with start-up charter airline JS Air to operate flights on its behalf on socio-economic routes. This represented the first time in Pakistani aviation history that 2 air operators entered into a joint venture arrangement. The first destination under this agreement was the port city of Gwadar which was connected to the Airblue network on 17 June and was served twice daily, except Fridays, from Karachi. The flights were operated using JS Air's 19 seater Beech 1900C aircraft which are specifically suited to serving low yield 'commuter' destinations.
Cost cutting measures
To deal with the fuel price hike worldwide, Airblue is converted their fleet to all economy class. This will also be applied to their new aircraft. They also ended full meal services and replaced it with snacks on domestic flights. In 2006 Airblue did away with chinaware crockery service for meals on domestic possibly Gulf routes to cut costs and weight, replacing it with plasticware as per normal industry practice.
Passengers may check-in between two to 48 hours prior to flight departure. This may be done over the counter or at the self-service kiosks. Currently self service kiosks are available at Jinnah International Airport and Allama Iqbal International Airport. Dnata the aviation services company handles the ground and passenger handling for the airline at all of the airports the airline operates from. Gate Gourmet provides food and beverage services to the airline.
Airblue have launched e-Cargo service to cater to air freight markets of Pakistan, UAE andUK. According to a press release, e-Cargo will broaden the base of cargo and permit certified agents to book freight directly online opening the inventory through the web.
As of August 2011 Airblue fleet consists of following aircraft as average age of 3.4 years:
- 4 Airbus A319-100
- 1 Airbus A320-200
Orders and deliveries
In November 2007, Airblue signed an agreement to purchase eight more A320 aircraft bringing the airline's total order up to 14. The deal is worth $520 million at catalogue prices. The aircraft will be configured to seat 165 passengers in all-economy configuration.
Achievements and recognitions
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- First airline in Pakistan and only the third carrier in the region behind Emirates and Royal Jordanian to introduce the state-of-the-art self-service check-in facilities at Jinnah International Airport, Karachi.
- First private airline in Pakistan to initiate long-haul services on (Islamabad-Manchester) sector in 2007.
- First private airline within Pakistan to place an order for new aircraft.
- First airline in Pakistan to start e-ticketing online.
- First airline in Pakistan to start self check in kiosks in Karachi.
- Airblue makes a fuel stop at Trabzon in Turkey when flying to and from Manchester. This route is the longest route operated by anAirbus A321 aircraft in the world, and the longest scheduled route operated by an Airbus narrowbody aircraft (excluding the Airbus A319LR).