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Firnas Airways aims for expansion

Firnas Airways is seeking to set up new scheduled services between the UK and Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Some of these routes are not currently offered by any airlines, while other routes see more demand than existing airlines provide.

Firnas wants to offer a “premium service at economy prices,” says Kazi Shafiqur Rahman, founder and CEO of the airline, before quickly assuring the public that, “safety and security will be a top priority.” The airline will also run a halal operation, including halal cuisine, kiblats and an alcohol-free refreshment service.

The carrier is named after the world’s first-ever pilot, Abbas Ibn Firnas. In 875 CE (the Common Era), in the city of Qutuba Al-Andalus, Cordoba, Spain, which at the time was one of the major centres of learning of the Muslim world, Firnas made the first successful attempt at human flight.

Rahman launched Sunnamusk, a fragrance company, seven years ago, with just £600 of initial finance. He is now trying to raise the rather more ambitious US$50 million of Shariah-compliant capital to launch his airline, which he hopes will break even after three years. The funding is needed to lease three Boeing 767-300ER aircraft and retrofit them with what the airline describes as “new dynamic seating concepts” that will offer passengers generous legroom, as well as a state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment system and free Wi-Fi.

As well as trying to raise the necessary capital, Firnas is in talks with London’s five major airports with a view to establishing the airline’s UK hub. The expansion plans are being steered by Firnas’s recently appointed managing director, Kevin Steele, an airline industry veteran with more than 30 years’ experience. He is the former managing director and CEO of Biman Bangladesh Airlines and has also held senior management roles with airlines including Arik Air, Sama, Etihad Airways and British Airways.

Aviation enthusiast Rahman hopes to make significant headway in raising the launch capital for his airline at the inaugural World Halal Travel Summit & Exhibition (WHTS15) in Abu Dhabi later this month, as a first step towards realising his ambition to run a global airline.