Emirates Latest to Link Gulf to Sialkot in Pakistan

United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrier Emirates Airline has announced plans to launch services to Sialkot, its fifth route to Pakistan.  The new link from Dubai International Airport will commence from November 5, 2013 with four weekly flights operated by an Airbus A330-200 aircraft in a two-class configuration - 54 seats in Business Class and 183 in Economy Class.  The aircraft can also carry up to 17 tonnes of cargo, giving a boost to trade opportunities.

Sialkot is the capital of Sialkot District located in the north-east of the Punjab province in Pakistan. Situated around 125 kilometres north of Lahore, it provides customers with a convenient alternative gateway to the Export Triangle of Pakistan – the area encompassing Gujrat, Sialkot and Gujranwala.  The area is famous for producing and exporting sports goods and clothing, gloves, surgical instruments, cutlery, ceramics and leather garments, whilst imports to the region focus on the supply of raw materials for manufacturing those products.

“Pakistan was the first country on our route network when we launched services to Karachi in 1985,” said Barry Brown, Divisional Senior Vice President Commercial Operations East, Emirates Airline.  “With the addition of this fifth destination the airline will operate 63 flights a week between Dubai and Pakistan.”

Twenty eight years since its first flight, this new service to Sialkot continues to demonstrate the strong ties between the two countries and reinforces Dubai as a conveniently located hub for onward travel on Emirates’ network of 134 destinations.  “Besides boosting global trade and economic opportunities, this new route will provide additional travel options to Pakistanis wanting to connect with friends, families and colleagues worldwide,” added Brown.

Sialkot International Airport, which opened in 2007, boasts the longest runway in Pakistan at 3,600 metres and was wholly funded by the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce. “As the first privately funded airport in Pakistan, we welcome Emirates’ decision to commence operations to the city”, said Sheikh Abdul Majid, President of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce. “Sialkot will be able to offer Emirates’ passengers another point of entry into Pakistan in a modern, conveniently located and accessible airport.”

Sialkot is a major export hub for Pakistan and after Karachi is Pakistan's second largest source of foreign exchange earnings.  The per capita income of Sialkot is ranked among the highest in Pakistan but up until recently air services from Sialkot International Airport have been limited.  However, a strong local catchment (the city has an estimated population of around 500,000 people) has seen the likes of Air Arabia and flyDubai launch low-cost flights to Sharjah and Dubai.  Both airlines are serving the point-to-point demand to the district as well as an alternative option for passengers travelling to Lahore.

In 2012, an estimated 2.32 million bi-directional O&D passengers travelled between Pakistan and the UAE, a similar level to 2011 where a growth of 11.2 per cent was recorded on the previous year.  Around 46,000 of these passengers flew in or out of Sialkot.