Ariana Afghan Airlines is the national airline of Afghanistan, apart from being its largest and oldest carrier. Owned and controlled solely by the Afghan government, it's headquartered in Kabul, with the main base at Kabul International Airport. The airline appears in the list of air carriers banned in European Union. It was disqualified in November 2008, on the basis of security deficiencies and a lack of ability to address them. One of its aircraft had serious defects and it was alleged that the regulatory authority of Afghanistan did not abide by the binding Chicago convention dealing with air safety measures. However, it still maintains service to Germany, with a leased airbus A310.
Ariana Afghan Airlines was established on January 27, 1955. An American commercial pilot established it by relocating several war-surplus Dakota Aircrafts to Afghanistan. Realizing the utility of air travel, the then Afghan government co-opted the airlines and christened it as "Ariana Afghan Airlines". The Shah of Afghanistan personally designed the logo for the new airline. In 1957, Ariana was reincorporated as a limited Liability Company, with 51% of the shares owned by various entitles of the Afghan Government, and the remaining 49% acquired by Pan American World Airways.
In 1979, Ariana purchased a wide-body DC 10 to operate on its Asian and European routes. After some years of service, that aircraft was sold to make room for two Topolov TU 154 aircrafts from Russia. In 1993, Ariana purchased three Boeing 727-200 aircrafts from Air France. During the Taliban regime, the airline operated two Boeing 727-100 aircrafts and one Boeing 727-200 for international routes, apart from five AN 24 aircrafts for domestic routes. After the return of peace to Afghanistan, Ariana’s business is well on its way to recovery. Its fleet has been expanded and its network is rapidly being extended.
Setbacks & Revival
In the 1970s, Ariana Afghan Airlines went on to become one of the top airlines in Afghanistan. However, it suffered major setbacks with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (in 1989) and the Taliban takeover of Kabul (in 1996), which resulted in the termination of many of its international services. It even faced crushing economic sanctions from the international sector, which had a cataclysmic affect on the business of the company. The company’s overseas operations were suspended following sanctions imposed by a UN Security Council Resolution.
Cargo flights to China were terminated and flights to Britain, Italy, France, Netherlands and other destinations were permanently cancelled. Ariana’s fleet was reduced to a few Russian and Ukrainian made aircrafts. Its base was also shifted to Karachi in Pakistan for a short while. By 1999, Ariana flew only to Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Riyadh and Saudi Arabi. In 2001, the airline was completely grounded. The UN sanctions were lifted with the elimination of Taliban by the America-backed NATO forces and the Afghan Northern Alliance.
With the passing time, Ariana Afghan Airlines showed signs of revival. It started reworking its operations with the international sector, leading to resumption of services to many foreign destinations. The airline has recently launched an e-ticketing facility, through which tickets can be booked over the internet. The decision to introduce e-ticketing was announced on June 20, 2009. It also added a third flight to Frankfurt on June 19, 2009. The airlines will now fly to Frankfurt thrice in a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Efforts are reportedly underway for arranging a proper support for the airline’s privatization.
Ariana covers a number of domestic destinations like Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-e sharif. Among the international destinations, the air service caters to India and Pakistan with flights to New Delhi and Islamabad. Apart from that, it also operates flights to Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Sharjah in Southwest Asia, along with Tajikistan in Central Asia and China in East Asia. Earlier it had flights to Germany, Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan in Europe, but now only Germany remains in its list of stops.
At present, Ariana Afghan Airlines operates with ten aircrafts, including Airbus A300B4-200, Airbus A310-300, Antonov An-24, Boeing 727-200, Boeing 727-200, Boeing 727-200F, and Boeing 737-700. Along with that, it has already placed order for four new Airbus A310-300.