Shaheen Air ICAO – SAI/IATA – NL was a privately owned airline that was the second largest Pakistani airline. Its headquarters are at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport. The airline’s majority owner was the Shehbai family.

Shaheen Air provided passenger, cargo, and charter services to major cities in Pakistan and across Gulf State countries in the Middle East and Asia. It was founded in 1993, and it launched operations in October 1994.

Due to various circumstances, mainly tax-related issues, Shaheen Airlines suspended all operations until further notice in October 2018. It is still unoperational.

On the 22 May 2004, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) grounded Shaheen Air due to the airline’s 1.25 Billion Pakistani Rupee debt. This figure was not published until 13 July 2018. Roughly three days later, the airline was cleared to resume domestic and international operations as normal. The clearance letter was issued by PCAA following because Shaheen Air International had formally paid off its debts. This success was shortlived, and the airline permanently shut down a few months later.

“SAI has challenged PCAA’s letter dated on the 13th of July which has been issued in breach of PCAA Rule 373 and PCAA has been treating Shaheen Air discriminately in regards to other Pakistani Airlines,” said Shaheen Air’s Directing Manager.

Shaheen Air was grounded from 2004 to 2018. Once cleared to fly again, it only operated for a few months. Image from

What caused Shaheen Air’s second fall? Matters went out of hand when the airline’s HQ was raided by Federal Bureau officers in July of 2018.

Then, due to direct orders from the Sindh High Court, Shaheen Air wasn’t allowed to bring back stranded passengers in the district of Guangzhou in China. However on 3 August 2018, the airline did manage to ferry a special flight from Lahore Allama Iqbal International to Guangzhou International Airport to help relieve the suffering of passengers stranded. A technical error delayed that service.

Shaheen Air operated an all-Airbus fleet apart from its old Boeing 737s. The airline leased a numer of aircraft from companies like AerCap, an Irish lessor who gave Shaheen seven Airbus A319 aircraft. This brought a variety in to Shaheen’s fleet, which included A319/A320/A321 to the long-range Airbus A330-200s and -300s, which were mainly used for long haul flights to UK destinations.

To try to gain some recenue, Shaheen wet leased A319s to carriers like Royal Jordanian Air and Air Egypt. These contracts signaled the end of the A319’s end with Shaheen. A short time later, three A320-200 aircraft (AP-BMC, AP-BLN, and AP-BLK) where ferried to Queen Alia International Airport because Shaheen could not properly maintain them.

All together, Shaheen Air had as many as 15 aircraft in its fleet at any one time. Many were old planes that needed constant maintenance.

Shaheen Air served roughly 11 domestic and 11 international routes from its main base at Jinnah International Airport. International destinations included states like the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Routes appealed to business and leisure travelers as well as religious pilgrims travelling for the Hajj. Shaheen Air also brought foreign travelers from China, Malaysia, and the UK into Pakistan.

Shaheen has operated as many as 15 planes at one time. Image from The News International

Shaheen’s domestic routes included big and small cities like Lahore, Islamabad, Sialkot, Quetta, and Faisalabad. All of these routes were suspended as Shaheen’s situation worsened.

There was hope when a Saudi royal family member contacted Shaheen Air officials to invest in the airline and get it running again. The deal was to be formalized within two months of opening negotiations. This was the breakthrough the airline, and the Pakistani Aviation Industry (for the purposes of healthy competition), was looking for. At the time of writing, no deal has been formalized.

Employee salaries still hadn’t been paid. These workers must be paid if Shaheen wants any hope of flying again. Currently, there are only rumors concerning Shaheen Air’s future.

Featured image from Islamabad Scene

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