ISLAMABAD: A-380, the World’s biggest passenger aircraft operated by Emirates Airline, made its maiden touchdown here at the Islamabad International Airport, showcasing the new state-of-the-art aviation facilities available for the world’s leading and Pakistan’s developed airlines.
The special flight, operating as EK 2524, was joined by a VIP delegation led by Emirates’ Commercial Operations Divisional Senior Vice President Sheikh Majid Al Mualla. He was joined by Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salem Al Zaabi, the UAE Ambassador to Pakistan and Moazzam Ahmad Khan, Pakistan Ambassador to the UAE.
IS IT WISE TO ALLOW BIG BIRDS TO LAND?
The landing of the superjumbo, however, has triggered a debate across the country of whether Pakistan should follow the international practice of banning the landing of superjumbo aeroplanes.
India and Canada have already banned the landing of these big birds which triggered a controversy between them and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite repeated requests by UAE authorities, the Indian government has not acted to change regulations that bar overseas carriers, including Emirates and Deutsche Lufthansa AG, from flying an aircraft bigger than the Boeing co. 747 in the country. That rules out the A380 as well.
The two airlines are eager to tap India’s growing travel market with the A380. They have even run up against policies that protect state-owned Air India Ltd.
Experts believe that Pakistan needs to follow suit as heavy aircraft not only affects the hardware at Pakistani airports, but Emirates may also eat away shares of Pakistan’s national carrier, Pakistan International Airline (PIA), which is already suffering due to financial losses.
Emirates has grown exponentially in Pakistan. Today the airline operates 71 weekly flights between Dubai and six cities in Pakistan – Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Sialkot and Multan; offering Pakistani travellers convenient access to over 150 global destinations.
According to critics, not only is Emirates affecting operations of the PIA, other domestic airlines including Airblue and Shaheen are also taking a financial hit.
Critics also say that routes are given across the world on reciprocal basis but Emirates has been given seven flights from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad along with Air Arabia, Fly Dubai and Etihad. They have been given permission to operate from Quetta, Faisalabad and Sialkot as well.
As a result, analysts say that Airblue and Shaheen had to shut down their flights from these cities because they were offering prices which our airlines can’t compete with.
GENERAL LODHI ALSO HINTS AT PROTECTING PIA:
Defence and Aviation Minister Lt Gen (r) Naeem Khalid Lodhi welcomed high-ranking officials from United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the aircraft staff on the aircraft’s landing in Islamabad. However, the minister did not forget to mention that Pakistan would also have to safeguard the interest of its national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
“We will make sure that the PIA rises high and meets upcoming challenges in the aviation industry. We also have to safeguard the interests of our own airline,” he added.
“I am sure that this opening will allow the world to know how Pakistan is transforming. We now have facilities that can handle such big birds and other airlines can follow suit,” the minister about the aircraft’s landing in Islamabad.
This was the first time that the iconic double-decker aircraft landed in Pakistan. The landing demonstrated the airport’s readiness to accommodate the A380, the world’s largest commercial passenger jet.
The special Emirates A380 flight was operated by a UAE national Captain Abbas Shaban and Chief Pilot of Technical Operations First Officer Qadir Moin who is a Pakistani national.
Also travelling on the flight as special guests were two Pakistani members of Emirates’ first ever team, Captain Fazle Ghani, the airline’s first Chief Pilot and Team Lead for Inaugural Operations and Captain Ejaz ul Haq, one of the pilots who operated the first ever Emirates flights from Dubai 33 years ago.
Upon landing at the Islamabad International Airport, the aircraft was met with a ceremonial water cannon salute, and the Emirates delegation was welcomed by government officials and Islamabad airport executives.
After the welcoming ceremony, government officials, VIPs, media and members of the travel industry were given a guided tour of the A380 by the Emirates cabin crew.
“We are proud to have operated this special A380 flight to Islamabad, the first time ever that our flagship aircraft has landed in Pakistan. The Emirates A380 is fundamental to our overall strategy, and bringing this popular aircraft to Islamabad represents a significant milestone in our operations to Pakistan, a country we flew our first ever flight to in 1985. We are very keen to now launch a scheduled A380 service to Pakistan and will continue to work with authorities to make these plans a reality,” Sheikh Majid Al Mualla said.
Emirates and Pakistan have a long-standing relationship that spans over 30 years. It began when the airline’s first flight flew from Dubai to Karachi on 25 October 1985. It was none other the PIA that had helped start the operations of Emirates. Emirates claims to having employed over 5,000 Pakistani nationals as flight deck crew, cabin crew and various other positions in the airline.