Tuesday 21 October 2014

Syria launches new commercial Kinda Airlines despite war woes

Airlines will operate out of Damascus International airport and the regime-held city of Latakia, aiming to fly to more than 10 destinations

Published 28/03/2014 | 08:58

Kinda Airlines, a private company, is planning to launch its "fleet" in May

Syria is launching a new airline, planning to fly to destinations across the Middle East and further afield, despite the ongoing civil war in the country.

Kinda Airlines, a private company, is planning to launch its "fleet" in May, flying out of Damascus International airport and the coastal city of Latakia, whose province that has seen intensive fighting in recent days.

"Kinda Airlines has the authority to operate almost to the whole world," reads the message on its website, adding that it hopes to expand its "network year after year, and in all directions".

Esmail Sharaf, Vice Commercial Manager, told Reuters that Kinda Airlines will aim to fly to more than 10 destinations within a year, including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq, and "hopefully Lebanon and Jordan".

He said the company had registered a Boeing 737-400 from Jordan Aviation and signed a contract for an Airbus 320 with Aeolus Air, a company registered in Gambia and with offices in the United Arab Emirates.

Airlines have stopped flying to Syria in recent years, where civil war has killed over 140,000 since 2011.

In May 2013, Royal Jordanian, Jordan's national carrier stopped flying over Syrian airspace for "security reasons".

Damascus International Airport has been closed several times in the past three years, often due to skirmishes between rebels and government troops on the highway outside.

But in the past six months Syrian government troops have appeared to make steady gains in Damascus, returning a sense of normalcy to the capital.

Kinda Airlines' debut flight was first scheduled for January. It was delayed until April 1 and again, Sharaf said, until May 1 due to "documents that are not ready and some paperwork inside Syria."

The startup has also had to deal with wide-ranging European Union, Arab League and U.S. sanctions on Syria. Syrianair has had to ground planes in the past when it was unable to buy new parts for its fleet.

"(Sanctions are) making it very, very difficult. Hopefully we have passed through all these difficulties," Sharaf said.

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