Ariana Afghan Airlines is looking to source a wet-lease operator which it can use to fly into Frankfurt and is also targeting a new route to Guangzhou, China as it looks to expand its operations.
Speaking at Airline yesterday (28 March) in Canary Wharf, London, the carrier’s quality assurance director, Omid Mobtakar said: “The next target market is Guangzhou in China, which we are considering and we are also now reconsidering Frankfurt, as we have been operating there before until the EU banned us.
“We are considering a sort of wet-lease operation to be able to fly to Europe. We have been considering it for one to three years now.”
There is currently no direct air link from Kabul to Frankfurt, but he said many Afghans live in Germany who now have to connect mostly through Dubai or through Istanbul to fly into Frankfurt to visit family.
Mobtakar said the airline sees a slow but steady demand opportunity on the route but accurate statistics he says are hard to come by from agencies and it is relying on travel agencies saying that there is demand there for a direct route.
However, the carrier will need to overcome regulatory issues and get permission to as it was banned by the European Union (EU) in October 2006 of flying into the European continent due to safety concerns, but Mobtakar said it is seeking to get the ban lifted and is currently in negotiations with EU lawmakers.
The airline, which is the state-owned national carrier of Afghanistan and is one of only two airlines operating in the country, the other being privately-owned Kam Air which started operations in 2003.
Ariana Afghan Airlines now operates five aircraft and owns all of them – two Airbus A310s and three Boeing 737-400s and 500s, but Mobtakar said it is looking to grow its fleet and add more aircraft.
Mobtakar said: “We have recently one 737-500 aircraft and we are actually in the process of acquiring another 737-500 and are in talks with an Indonesian operator which is selling this aircraft and we are in negotiations with them.”
“We are also targeting some widebody aircraft, but when it will happen and how it will happen I am not sure but that is what we are considering. We are more interested in Boeing,” he said.
Ariana Afghan Airlines currently flies domestic routes from Kabul to Herat and Kandahar, and international routes to Delhi, Jeddah, Ankara, Istanbul, Dubai, Moscow and Urumqi.