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Afghanistan's Safi Airways plans expansion.

Dubai: Safi Airways, a private airline in Afghanistan, will aggressively expand in the next three years in a move to fend off competition from international airlines.

The airline is looking to order up to 20 narrow-body aircraft and will need at least 10 within two to three years, Joshua Bustos, chief commerical officer of the airline told reporters on Sunday.

Safi Airways currently operates a fleet of four aircraft; two Airbus A319s, one A320 and one Boeing 767. The new aircraft will replace the existing fleet and be used for expansion, Bustos said at an aviation conference in Dubai.

Owned by the Safi Group, an Afghan conglomerate, Safi Airways started operations in 2009 and currently flies three domestic routes and four international from Kabul, the country's capital.

But the increasing number of international operators in the country, including the three major Gulf carriers Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, means the airline needs to step up its growth plans.

"We have to expand very, very quickly to put a foothold in this region so we don't become irrelevant," Bustos said.

Destinations

The airline has ditched plans to launch long-haul flights in the near term and will instead focus on Middle East and former Soviet Union countries within three to three and half hours flying time from Kabul.

Lebanon, Kuwait, Iran, India, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are all on the airline's radius, Bustos said. It already flies to Dubai, Jeddah, Islamabad and New Delhi from Kabul.

Safi Airways will soon start talks with Boeing over its 737s and Airbus over its A319s and A320s. Bustos said who it orders from will "primarily come down to aircraft availability."

Safi Airways will also speak to French-Italian manufacturer ATR, along with other turboprop makers, for aircraft for its domestic routes and flights to former Soviet states in Central Asia.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Oct 26, 2015
Words:320
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