ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday (today) approved plan of renewing public transport licence to AirSial, an airline launched by Sialkot based investors. The airline successfully landed its first plane, an Airbus A320-232, in Karachi on Sunday. The airline is set to commence its operations with three Airbus planes that it has leased from Ireland based AerCap.

AirSial was previously scheduled to launch its operations earlier this year but was delayed by the pandemic. A project of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry, AirSial was set up in 2015 following the construction of Sialkot’s privately owned airport, making it the first and only such airport in Pakistan.

During the meeting, which will be presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Aviation Division has sought a waiver of 10 per cent security deposit and extension in deadline of Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) for M/s Sial Airline Limited. According to letter issued by Aviation Division to Cabinet Secretariat, M/s Air Sial was issued Regular Public Transport (RPT) licence for a period of one year from September 5, 2017 under the then National Aviation Policy-2015. The airline was to commence flight operations within 365 days by obtaining Air Operator’s Certificate, failing which its entire security deposit was to be forfeited. However, the airline could not obtain an AOC within the prescribed time-frame.

The Federal Cabinet, in Case No, 115/06/2019 of January 2019, considered a summary initiated by Aviation Division and approved as follows ;(i) granted renewal of the Regular Public Transport. Licence of M/s Air Sial Limited for a period of one year with effect from September 5, 2018 to September 4, 2019; and (ii) allowed a one-time relaxation in policy for not forfeiting the security deposit of M/s Air Sial.

Subsequently, the Federal Cabinet approved National Aviation Policy-2019 (repealing NAP2015) which stipulates that if an operator fails to obtain an AOC within a maximum of two years’ time-frame from the date of issuance of respective licence, then a 10% of the total security deposit will be levied as non-conformance charge.

Subsequently, a fresh licence has to be applied while its remaining security deposit shall be refunded. However, inspite of a one-time renewal and relaxation of policy, M/s Air Sial again failed to acquire an AOC within the extended period. To provide ease of doing business and efforts made by the Air Sial, the Federal Cabinet in January 2020 again “granted approval for relaxation in policy for not forfeiting the security deposit of M/s Air Sial”. Based on Cabinet’s approval the Minister for Aviation approved renewal of RPT licence of the airline for a further period of two years from September 5, 2019 to September 4, 2021 with the condition to acquire an AOC up to June 30, 2020.

The sources privy to this issue said, owing to the Covid-19 aviation sector was also badly affected and as a result the aircraft could not be delivered in time and M/s Air Sail could not ensure AOC upto June 30, 2020. The airline has now requested to extend the AOC period upto the already approved validity of RPT licence i.e. September 4, 2021. The airline has also given an undertaking to complete all formalities for acquiring AOC by December 31, 2020 but no later than March 31, 2021.

Keeping in view the efforts already made by the M/s Air Sial in terms or acquiring or aircraft, hiring of manpower, establishment of offices etc. Aviation Division has sought Cabinet approval for extension in AOC requirement up till March 31, 2021. Aviation Division has further proposed that 10% of the security deposit, which is to be levied as non-conformance charge on M/s Air Sial under Article 4.3 of National Aviation Policy-2019, may also be waived-off.

Hamza Habib is a senior journalist and former editor of who has previously worked for leading newspapers and TV networks of the country. He mainly writes on the economy and political issues.


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