Bloomberg News

Safi Airways Plans Growth With New Routes, Etihad Sales Accord

December 20, 2011

Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Safi Airways, Afghanistan’s privately owned carrier, said it’s expanding its network, adding aircraft and tying up with larger carriers in a bid to become a regional player.

Safi, which has an interline-ticketing agreement with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, plans to upgrade to a code-sharing arrangement with the carrier by May or June, Chief Executive Officer Hamid Safi said in an interview in Abu Dhabi yesterday. The partnership would build on traffic from a route Safi will start Jan. 5 linking the Afghan capital, Kabul, with Abu Dhabi.

“We want to connect to the world,” Safi said. “Abu Dhabi is the new hub.” Traffic between Kabul and Abu Dhabi is “huge” because of trade, diplomatic ties and United Arab Emirates investments in Afghanistan, he said.

As Afghanistan rebuilds following a 10-year U.S.-led invasion to oust the extremist Islamist group Taliban, Safi has a strategy connect military and non-government organizations to Kabul while offering business travelers and goods traders better links to global destinations. Safi’s local competitor is state- owned Ariana Afghan Airlines, which also flies abroad from Kandahar as well as from Kabul, where both carriers are based.

Safi plans to start a route to Manama, Bahrain, and to increase the number of flights offered to New Delhi next year, Safi said. It may also increase Abu Dhabi flights to seven a week from four, depending on performance. Oman and Riyadh would also be attractive destinations, he said.

Safi operates two Airbus SAS A320 planes and one Boeing Co. 767 airliner. It plans to restore two Boeing 737s to service after technical evaluation in the first half of 2012, or it may lease two A320s instead.

The carrier may add two Airbus A330 wide-body planes, depending how operations perform, Chief Commercial Officer Lloyd Carswell said at a press conference in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

“We don’t want to be too aggressive but we want to be a regional carrier,” Chief Operating Officer Michael McTighe in an interview yesterday. “Now’s the time for conservative growth.”

--Editors: Tom Lavell, Thomas Mulier

To contact the reporter on this story: Tamara Walid in Abu Dhabi at twalid@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net


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