Bhoja Air Set for Relaunch

Independent Pakistani carrier Bhoja Air will relaunch commercial operations in the country in January 2012 and has plans to expand its network to include destinations in the Middle East and Asia. The carrier initially launched domestic operations on November 7, 1993 using Boeing 737-200s on routes between Karachi, Lahore and Quetta, expanding into the international market with a Karachi – Dubai link from January 24, 1998. However, it suspended operations in 2001 due to financial problems.

Now with new financial backing and a revised management team it is working to return to the skies. In an exclusive interview with The HUB, Arshad Jalil, the former boss of Shaheen Airlines and the now Chief Executive Officer of Bhoja Air, revealed the airline’s new development plan and the potential for growth in Pakistan domestic market.

“The Pakistan aviation market has tremendous potential if a quality and safe airline fills the gap,” he explained. “If you compare Pakistan with Indonesia, which is a similar size and type of market to our own, there have been vast differences over the past five years. Indonesia has seen an exponential growth from 10 million passengers in 1995 to 109 million last year whereas unfortunately Pakistan has only witnessed a growth from 9.5 million to 12 million passengers in the same period.”

Bhoja Air will initially launch services on major trunk routes within Pakistan, according to Arshad Jalil, providing links from its main base at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport to Islamabad, Lahore, Multan and Sukkur. The routes to Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, and to Benazir Bhutto International Airport in the Pakistani capital Islamabad are the two largest markets from Karachi and are already well served, as the table below illustrates.




Estimated O&D Traffic

% Demand

Competition (weekly flights)


Lahore (LHE)


38.6 %

PIA (30), Shaheen Air (15)


Islamabad (ISB)


38.0 %

PIA (31), Shaheen Air (18)


Peshawar (PEW)


7.4 %

PIA (7),


Quetta (UET)


3.6 %

PIA (11)


Faisalabad (LYP)


2.6 %

PIA (8)


Sialkot (SKT)


2.1 %

PIA (5)


Multan (MUX)


2.0 %

PIA (17)


Sukkur (SKZ)


1.9 %

PIA (12)


Bahawalpur (BHV)


0.8 %

PIA (7)


Mohenjodaro (MJD)


0.6 %

PIA (5)



2.6 %






Multan and Sukkur currently have much lower passenger demand and are the seventh and eighth largest O&D markets from Karachi presently. Multan, located in the lower Punjab is often referred to as the City of Sufis or City of Saints and Madinah-Tul-Oleyah due to the large number of shrines and Sufi saints from the city and is home bazaars, mosques, shrines and ornate tombs. Sukkur, is the third largest city of Sindh province, situated on the west bank of Indus River

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is the sole operator to these two cities from Karachi using a mix of mainline jets and ATR regional turboprops. In fact the national carrier PIA is by far the dominant operator at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport with a 68.3% share of the available seat capacity, followed by airblue (16.1 per cent) and Shaheen Air International (15.7 per cent).

After its first two months of operation the arrival of additional aircraft will enable links to Peshawar and Quetta, two routes that Bhoja Air previously operated in its previous form, to be introduced. The airline will also add flights to Skardu, the main town of the Baltistan region and a popular tourist destination thanks to the nearby mountainous terrain.

Bhoja Air will initially use four Boeing 737-200s acquired from Comair of South Africa on its domestic routes but it is currently negotiating to acquire younger aircraft for its international services. “We are in the final stages of acquiring two 737-400 for our International operations,” confirmed Arshad Jalil. “We hope to start scheduled operations to the Middle East from May 2012 and plan to serve the Far East, China, the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka and Colombo in Sri Lanka before the end of this year.”

The airline will be a “full-service” carrier, adds Arshad Jalil and already has its own internal maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) capability, training centre with simulators and is in the process of establishing its own catering unit. “We will offer full meals, better seat pitch, more frequency and variable air fares depending upon time and season,” added Arshad Jalil when questioned how Bhoja Air will establish itself in the market against the competition.

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…