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An all-Punjabi airline in Europe

The new airline will satisfy the appetite of Punjabis, who will love to fly in an airline of their own rather than in the airlines of other countries.

india Updated: Oct 14, 2006 16:07 IST

How about some bhangra-pop at 35,000 feet in the air with tandoori chicken and makki-di-roti and sarson-ka-saag and a Punjabi girl welcoming you on board. This is no longer going to be a dream, as a London-based Sikh family is all set to give an airline that is all Punjabi.

When the first flight of Air Slovakia lands in Sikh holy city of Amritsar Saturday from Cologne in Germany, it would indeed be a proud moment for 56-year-old Harjinder Singh Sidhu.

He is the proprietor of the three-aircraft airline, which he acquired only last week in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava. The airline has a 60-member staff.

Harjinder's son Riqbal 'Rocky' Singh told reporters here Friday the airline would ba a first of its kind with an all-Punjabi experience on the Amritsar-Europe route.

Scores of Punjabis have immigrated to countries across Europe, Canada and the US. Hundreds of them fly in and out of the country every week, airline industry sources said.

The new airline, according to Riqbal, will literally satisfy the appetite of Punjabis in flying an airline of their own rather than doing so in the airlines from other countries.

It just happened to British passport holder Harjinder a few days ago when he realised that Air Slovakia, for whom he was the general sales agent in Britain, India and Italy, was not doing too well.

"It was then that my father decided to invest in the airline. He said why not buy this airline?" Riqbal said here. The takeover of the airline by the Sidhu family was completed only last week.

He promised an all-Punjabi fare on board the flights saying it would have "true Punjabi flavour".

Besides Harjinder as the chairman of the new airline, Riqbal, 30, and his sister Rimple, 31, are the directors.

The airline fare for the Amritsar-Birmingham sector would be Rs.23,000, Riqbal said.

The airline's London Stansted to Amritsar flight, carrying its new 56-year-old owner, takes off Friday evening and will land at Amritsar Saturday morning.

Harjinder started his journey from the sleepy town of Nabha near Patiala in 1972 and migrated to Britain. He did labour jobs there before setting his eyes on a Russian petrol station from where he used to buy fuel. He bought the petrol station within a few years and later took the list to 30 petrol stations in and around Britain.

After dabbling in property in Britain, Canada and India, Harjinder got into the aviation sector by floating a chartered flight from London to Amritsar for Punjabis wanting to fly in here.

The airline has three Boeing aircraft - two 757s and one 737 - in its fleet.

Riqbal said the fleet size was expected to go up to nine by 2007-end by acquiring four Boeing 757 and two 767 aircraft.

The company wants to link places like Barcelona, Athens, Amsterdam, Glasgow, Paris and other European cities with Amritsar. Later destinations would include cities in Canada, Britain and Britain.

The Indianised Air Slovakia with dedicated planes will fly to Milan, Bratislava, Birmingham, London and Cologne. Return ticket prices are expected to range from $530 to $1100.