Safi Airways benefits from turmoil in Afghanistan

Afghanistan's Safi Airways will benefit for years to come from the presence of non-governmental organisations, private security companies and other foreign entities in the country, said its chief commercial officer.

"They get to go home every two months and there are 400,000 of them there," Claus Fischer said in an interview at the world's biggest travel fair, ITB Berlin, on Friday.

Based in Afghanistan's capital in Kabul, Safi is the country's second-biggest airline after national carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines and has been running scheduled operations for just more than a year.

There are more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan as well as dozens of non-governmental organisations.

And Fischer, a German who was helped manage airlines including German regional carriers dba and Eurowings, said he does not expect the population of expatriates in Afghanistan to reduce significantly for some years.

Safi Airways has signed agreements with airlines including Lufthansa, United Airlines and Dubai-based Emirates to use Safi Airways planes on some flights.

A passenger travelling from the United States to Afghanistan might fly to Frankfurt with Lufthansa and then switch to Safi for a direct flight to Kabul, making Safi a feeder airline into and out of Afghanistan.

About 80 per cent of Safi's passengers to Dubai and about half of those to Frankfurt are expatriates, Fischer said.

Fischer, who has been with the company since early 2009, said his initial interim appointment at the then-suffering airline was quickly made permanent.

Many carriers in the Middle East and Asia, such as Emirates, have imported managers and aircraft crew from Europe and North America to gain the know-how to run an airline.

"It is mentally and physically strenuous here. But it is also personally gratifying," he said.

Safi, whose Boeing 767-200 takes Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on all his flights abroad, has four aircraft and is looking to renew its fleet by leasing new planes.


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