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Afghanistan's Ariana restarts Sharjah flights

posted on 12/02/2002: 1454 views

Afghanistan formally signalled it has embarked upon the road to reconstruction and redevelopment when the country's flag-carrier Ariana had flight AFG407 touching down at Sharjah International Airport yesterday after taking off from Kabul.

This is only the second international flight undertaken by the airline since October 2001; the first on Sunday was to ferry envoys to New Delhi.

Effective today, the carrier intends to resume daily cargo flights to Sharjah, apart from one weekly passenger flight. It also hopes to start passenger services to Dubai.

"We hope to quickly ramp up our Kabul-Sharjah freighter services to five, daily, while maintaining a weekly passenger flight on this sector," stated Feda Mohammed Fedawi, vice-president, technical operations.

The airline has only two serviceable aircraft - a Boeing 727, and an Antonov 24, the latter being used mostly for domestic short-hauls - but the official

hoped the fleet would be quickly built up through a combination of leases, charters and outright grants.

The carrier has chartered two DC-10s from Greek operator, although these will be limited to Haj operations for 15,000 Afghans this year, Fedawi clarified.

"We have requested the U.S. to give us aircraft as compensation for the six damaged during the air strikes; we have also requested our own government for five wide-bodied, five narrow-bodied, and some small aircraft for bush flying operations," he explained.

The most pressing need is for around four freighters, with the airline likely to go for Ilyushin 76 aircraft, he indicated.

He did not volunteer the figure required for the carrier's full operational redeployment; airline officials had earlier estimated the need at around $250 million.

Further, while Sharjah, and then Dubai, would likely form its initial focus of operations, followed by India, Fedawi hoped the airline's network would extend to Europe once wide-bodied aircraft were inducted into the fleet. (The Gulf News)


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