Birmingham Airport has agreed a deal with Pakistan’s second largest airline to begin twice-weekly flights to Lahore – just days after its new India service began.
Air Blue flights from the city to Lahore, via Islamabad, will begin on September 28 in the latest boost to the city’s airport.
The flight will be served by an all economy 342-seat Airbus A340 aircraft, each Wednesday and Saturday, arriving into Birmingham at 8pm and departing at 11.30pm.
The deal supplements Pakistan International Airlines’ service to Islamabad from the city four times a week, and comes at a crucial time for the airport as along with its rivals it awaits a response from the Airports Commission, looking into capacity problems, on expansion proposals.
Raza Chana, Air Blue’s country manager UK, said: “We hope to continue on the success we have had so far in the UK and look forward to working with Birmingham Airport and the Midlands’ Pakistani community to make sure these services are a success and to grow our operation in the future.”
Birmingham is only the second UK airport that Air Blue will serve, and comes sharply after Air India flights to Delhi started on August 1.
The scheduled carrier operates services across Pakistan and the Middle East, and return fares to Lahore will start at £466.
Martyn Lloyd, Birmingham Airport’s commercial director, said he was confident there was a strong market for the service.
He said: “More than 200,000 British Pakistanis live in the West Midlands so we’re really pleased to be able to announce this new link to Pakistan to give business and leisure passengers even more choice from Birmingham.”
The boost comes after Birmingham Airport submitted proposals to the Airports Commission outlining plans for a £7 billion expansion that would mean it could handle up to 70 million passengers a year.
The airport is extending its runway to increase the capacity of passengers from nine million to 27 million, allowing for bigger planes like the A380 superjumbo. Chief executive Paul Kehoe said the region’s community and businesses were behind the plans.
He said: “This is because people recognise that to grow local economies outside the South East and rebalance growth we need the direct international connectivity to encourage inward investment and support trade.”
Meanwhile, Sir Howard Davies, who is heading up the commission, said his panel had received “imaginative and thoughtful” responses to its consultation.
However, he said it had also seen a few ideas that were a “bit far-fetched”.
He added: “There are a number of interesting new proposals. For example Heathrow are proposing something which is rather different from what was planned before, so the old third runway is not in fact now on the table, but other different types of runway are.”
Sir Howard, a former head of the Financial Services Authority, said he had received a total of “about 50” plans.