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Pakistani Airline AirBlue Celebrates 18 Years Of Operations

On June 18, Pakistan’s international and domestic airline, Airblue, celebrated its 18 years of flying. The private airline was founded in 2003 from its headquarters in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and commenced flying on June 18, 2004.

Airblue celebrates onboard domestic and international flights

Airblue started with three leased Airbus A320-200s, operating on two domestic routes, Karachi-Islamabad and Karachi-Lahore. Today it has a fleet of eleven aircraft, comprised of five Airbus A321-200s, two A321-200neos and four A320-200s, two of which are currently parked. On its memorial day of June 18, Airblue operated six of its aircraft on 16 services. Internationally it flew services to Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Within Pakistan, flights operated on the trunk routes between Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.

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The 18th Anniversary flights included services to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

Flightradar24.com data from June 18 shows the international 18th-anniversary flights originated as follows. Flight PA275 was operated by an A321-200neo, registration AP-BOD, departing Riyadh King Khalid International Airport (RUH) at 03:34 and arriving at Islamabad International Airport (ISB) at 09:29. It then returned to Riyadh. Departing from the UAE’s Sharjah International Airport (SHJ) at 02:15 was Airbus A321-200, registration AP-BMO, which arrived in Islamabad at 05:56. Airbus A321-200 AP-BMN operated flight PA412, a 2:39-hour trip from Lahore Allama Iqbal International Airport (LHE) to Sharjah. The busiest international aircraft was AP-EDG, an A320-200, which did a pair of return flights from Karachi Jinnah International Airport (KHI) to Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) with sector flight times of around three hours and fifty minutes.


One of the 18th-anniversary flights was from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia to Islamabad, Pakistan. Data: Flightradar24.com

After early success in the domestic market, Airblue launched its first international service in August 2005, between Karachi and Dubai. In June 2007, it started flights between Islamabad and Manchester, UK, and added services to Instanbul, Turkey, in 2011. Airblue added two leased Airbus A340-300 aircraft to its fleet to bolster its growing international network in October 2012. In a somewhat ill-fated move, it launched a second UK route, Lahore to Birmingham, at the end of September 2013. After just two months, Airblue announced it was suspending the route, which started as a twice-weekly service but had already been reduced to weekly.

At the time, Birmingham Airport issued a statement pointing out how successful the service had been, carrying more than 4,500 passengers and reaching 100% load factors on many of its Birmingham flights. Airblue said it was canceling the route because it needed the aircraft to expand into Saudi Arabia, while the airport said it was assured the service would recommence in the spring of 2014. Airblue also canceled the Manchester route in January 2014, with the A340s phased out in the same year.

Airblue had a fatal accident on July 28, 2010, when one of its Airbus A321 aircraft crashed on approach to Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport. The accident happened in poor weather when the aircraft impacted hills around ten nautical miles (18km) from the airport, killing the 146 passengers and six crew onboard.

If you have flown on an Airblue aircraft, please let us know about your experience and share your thoughts on the airline.

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