Monday, November 12, 2007

Air Blue places $700 million orders for 14 Boeing A320-200s

KARACHI (November 12 2007): Pakistan's fastest growing private sector carrier, Air Blue, has placed orders worth $700 million for purchase of 14 new A320-200 aircraft. This is the second largest order for outright purchase of brand new aircraft after national carrier PIA's $1.2 billion order placed in 2005 for purchase of eight Boeing aircraft--three 777-ER-200, three 777-ER-300 and two 777-LR-200.There is, however, a marked difference in the purchase of aircraft by Air Blue and PIA, as the government had to provide sovereign guarantee to the Eximp Bank for the purchase of aircraft by PIA, and the private sector carrier Air Blue provided only Company's guarantee.Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Air Blue Chief Executive Officer, told Business Recorder here on Saturday that a formal agreement for the purchase of 14 new A-320-200 would be signed between Airbus Industrie and Air Blue in Dubai on November 13 during the five-day air show, which started on November 11. The Airbus Chairman Industrie would sign the agreement on behalf of the aircraft manufacturer and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would sign on behalf of Air Blue .Abbasi left for Dubai late on Saturday afternoon to attend the air show and to sign the agreement.He said that the first A320-200 aircraft would be delivered in July, 2009, and thereafter one aircraft would be delivered after every three months thus completing the delivery of 14 aircraft by the end of 2012. Following induction of the new aircraft, the Air Blue fleet at present comprising three A-320s and three A-321s, which are on lease, would be returned to the lessor companies.About the financial health of Air Blue, Abbasi said that from the word 'go', three years back "we have not, for once looked back". Despite the fact that Pakistani carriers, to cover up their failures, have been crying hoarse about the galloping increase in fuel prices, Air Blue, he said, had posted profits year after year in the face of high fuel costs and other expansion expenses.The annual accounts, which are now being audited, would be announced by the end of next month, Abbasi said, adding that the airline would end up with a profit of around Rs 150 million and a 20 percent return on equity.He said that Islamabad to Manchester Air Blue flights have proved a roaring success. The seat occupancy, both ways, has been hundred percent, although high season has not yet started, he added.Similarly, he said, Dubai flights were also doing good business. About future expansion plans, he said that once the new aircraft are inducted into the airline, "we would expand towards West as well as East ie, Europe, Middle East, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand would be our future destinations."

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