Air Sial (SIF, Karachi Int'l) is planning to launch flight operations in June this year, according to a report in the Khaleej Times newspaper.

Having signed up for three used A320-200s from AerCap in late December, the carrier is hoping to become Pakistan's third privately-owned airline, joining AirBlue (PA, Karachi Int'l) and Serene Air (ER, Islamabad Quaid-e-Azam Int'l), although fellow private sector start-up K2 Airways (KTA, Karachi Int'l) is also vying for that accolade, as it also plans to start flights in 2020.

Owned by Sialkot-based businessmen, Air Sial plans to connect its Punjabi base to domestic points such as Karachi Int'l, Islamabad Quaid-e-Azam Int'l and Lahore Int'l, initially with a low-frequency service, an airline executive told the newspaper. Once these operations are established, it plans to add connections to Peshawar and Quetta, as well as extra frequencies on the first three routes, if demand warrants the capacity increase.

The airline executive also suggested that international services to the Middle East could start next year, with operations to Dubai Int'l deemed as the most likely.

Last month, the Pakistani government extended the deadline for Air Sial to secure its Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) and launch operations. It also waived a penalty for its failure to launch within two years of obtaining its Regular Public Transport (RPT) licence. Air Sial was one of several prospective carriers - Liberty Air (Pakistan) (Lahore Int'l), GoGreen Airways, Askari Aviation (AAS, Islamabad Quaid-e-Azam Int'l), United Airways Pakistan (Islamabad Quaid-e-Azam Int'l), and Afeef Zara Airways (Karachi Int'l) - to have been granted RPT licences by the country's government in 2018.

Pakistani aviation regulations require carriers to operate at least three aircraft if they are to ply domestic flights and five if they want to operate internationally. To that end, Air Sial is planning to increase its fleet to five aircraft by next year.