Transport Airlines

Airline Startup Is Betting on Tourism Coming Back to Syria

Jan 21, 2014 1:30 pm

Skift Take

Is Syria ready for a new airline? No.

— Samantha Shankman

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The lights at Umayyad Mosque shine in Damascus, Syria.


A new Syrian airline plans to start flights from the war-torn country to other Mid-East destinations by mid-March, betting that peace talks due to start tomorrow in Switzerland will deliver a more stable operating environment.

The airline, named Kinda, will target Syrian passengers with services to locations including the Persian Gulf, Vice Commercial Manager Esmail Sharaf said in a phone interview from Damascus. Syria’s civil aviation authority has approved the startup as a second national carrier after Syrian Air, he said.

“There is commercial logic, there is profit, there are passengers coming into and out of Syria, so we’re optimistic,” Sharaf said. “The security issue will be resolved and this is what we are hoping for and we’ll operate based on that.”

A delegation of Syrian opposition leaders heads to Montreux on Lake Geneva today for the first face-to-face meetings with President Bashar al-Assad’s government since the conflict began in 2011. Since then, more than 100,000 people have died, with a further 2 million fleeing the country, the United Nations says.

Kinda, a full service carrier with scheduled flights, plans to serve cities including Amman in Jordan, the Lebanese capital Beirut, and Dubai and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, with other routes under study, according to Sharaf.

Ownership Changes

In the first five years the privately owned airline will build a fleet of four leased or owned single-aisle aircraft, starting with a Boeing Co. 737-400 jet and an Airbus Group A320 sourced from Jordan Aviation, he said.

“We are hopeful the situation will be improved after Geneva,” Sharaf said, adding that the carrier will target foreign visitors from the region in the longer term. “We had a tourism industry — it was hit, but it will come back.”

Kinda will initially operate from Damascus International Airport, with a secondary base later at Lathiqiya Airport on the Mediterranean, he said. Its offices will be in the capital.

The airline had earlier indicated flights would start Jan. 15, but has pushed back that date while undergoing ownership changes aimed at boosting its capital, Sharaf said. Kinda’s chief operating officer is Doulamah Massalkhi, formerly of Syrian Air, while its commercial manager is Ammar Jouma, who used to work at FlyDubai, he said.

Editors: Christopher Jasper and Benedikt Kammel.

To contact the reporter on this story: Deena Kamel Yousef in Dubai at dhussein1@bloomberg.net. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net.

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