A joint venture between the Lakson Group and Air Arabia, Fly Jinnah commenced nationwide operations on October 31st 2022, with an inaugural flight from Karachi to Islamabad. Operating on various domestic routes, Fly Jinnah is a low-cost carrier that serves frequent flights to and from Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore and Quetta every day at an affordable cost.
When, where and how did the idea of setting up a new airline come about?
SHAHNAWAZ NAWABI: As regular travellers to, from and within Pakistan, we have always believed in the potential of Pakistan’s aviation sector. However, we felt that there was a gap in the market for an affordable, safe and reliable airline in the country.
Fly Jinnah was formed with the goal of enabling all Pakistanis to access air travel. We fully intend to achieve this goal.
Is FJ something that you chose to pursue based on the possibilities in the sector?
SN: Yes, we believe that Pakistan’s aviation industry has massive potential. In particular, we believe that many of the ideas and business models that are prevalent in other markets, can be applied successfully in Pakistan.
This is particularly true in the Low Cost Carrier (LCC) segment. Fly Jinnah believes that offering customers an affordable travel option, with increased choice of products and services, will benefit the entire aviation sector and the country as a whole.
Run us through your journey of making the idea of Fly Jinnah come to fruition?
SN: Today, only three percent of Pakistanis fly. This is largely because airfares are too high for the vast majority of Pakistanis. This percentage compares very unfavorably to similar countries in the region.
We wanted to develop an airline that could, one day, enable all Pakistanis to fly and increase the connectivity within Pakistan, as well as the connectivity of Pakistan within the region and around the world.
In order to achieve this, we needed to develop a concept that increased accessibility through low fares, while maintaining the highest safety and reliability standards.
This is why we believe that the Low Cost Carrier (LCC) concept will be a success in Pakistan. It is a proven business model around the world, and enables customers who would previously not have access to air travel, to be able to fly for the first time.
We are particularly proud of our partnership with Air Arabia. Air Arabia is our minority partner in the venture, and is a highly successful LCC in the Middle East. We hope to leverage Air Arabia’s expertise to bring a brand new concept to the Pakistani aviation market.
Through the process and years it has taken for you to convert Fly Jinnah into a reality, what have been your greatest challenges and what have been your greatest strengths?
SN: We have, of course, faced many challenges throughout our journey to date. However, we tend to focus on the opportunities that lie ahead and the support we have received so far.
We are grateful for the support of regulators and policy makers in Pakistan. We believe that there is a concerted effort from all stakeholders to increase competition and choice in the aviation industry, with the ultimate benefit being given to the customer and wider population.
With regard to Fly Jinnah, what has been your: 1) Greatest motivation, 2) Inspiration, 3) Biggest take-way?
SN: Greatest motivation: to enable ALL Pakistanis to have access to affordable, safe and reliable air travel – within Pakistan and beyond our borders.
Inspiration: Pakistan has been a leader in the aviation industry. We have an incredibly strong history of innovation and success. We hope that through our work at Fly Jinnah, Pakistan can reclaim its position as a global aviation power.
Biggest Takeaway: Pakistan has incredible potential, and not just in the aviation industry. We see that potential every day, represented by the youth of our country.
Looking back, would you say it has all been worth it?
SN: Absolutely! It’s still early days for us, but we are excited to be going on this journey.
What prompted the selection of the airline’s name? Fly Jinnah is possibly one of the few airlines that bear the name of the founder of a country – who came up with the idea?
SN: As mentioned above, we are proud to have Air Arabia UAE as our minority partner in this venture.
We hope this will be a highly successful Pakistan / UAE joint venture, and will lay the groundwork for further collaboration between our two friendly countries.
The name Fly Jinnah, is a reflection of this partnership. Jinnah, in Arabic, means ‘Wings’, which we believe is a very appropriate name for this airline venture.
As a product, how does Fly Jinnah differ from other domestic airlines in Pakistan?
SN: Fly Jinnah follows the highly successful Low Cost Carrier (LCC) model, which is proven worldwide. The model aims to keep costs low, thereby passing on cost savings to customers in the form of low fares.
At the same time, our aim is to provide customers with products and services which are unique in the local market. For example, we are very excited about Sky Time, our free inflight entertainment system which allows our customers to stream hundreds of movies, TV shows, games and music directly onto their smart devices during our flights.
We are also very proud of our very comfortable seats, and our seamless online booking platform, which enables customers to select seats, book meals and baggage allowances pre-flight, and even check in online. We hope to be one of the most tech enabled carriers in the country, to reflect our young population’s increasing familiarity with tech-related advancements.
Where do you see Fly Jinnah five years from now?
SN: Today, Fly Jinnah serves Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta. We hope to increase our connectivity in the domestic market to more cities across the country.
We also hope to begin our international services as soon as possible, with a view to increasing connectivity to the GCC markets, as well as South East Asia, Central Asia, Europe and beyond.
What next from Fly Jinnah?
SN: We will continue to roll out new products and services, and serve even more destinations, while keeping fares low. We will also continue to listen to customer feedback and improve our services.
As mentioned earlier, our goal is to ensure that one day, all Pakistanis have access to safe and reliable air travel.
INTERVIEW: YUSRA ASKARI
PHOTOGRAPHS: KOHI MARRI