“Halal Richard Branson” Wants To Start UK’s First Sharia-Compliant Airline

Well this is… unique.

There’s no denying that different groups of travelers have different needs, and it’s great when airlines accommodate for that. Several times in the past we’ve seen entrepreneurs try to launch Sharia-compliant airlines. Muslim travelers have special needs and preferences, though the question is whether that’s enough of a basis on which to launch a successful airline.

For example, in late 2015 we saw Rayani Air launch in Malaysia, which advertised itself as Malaysia’s first Sharia-compliant airline. What did they do to differentiate themselves?

  • In-flight meals were completely halal
  • Alcohol consumption was strictly prohibited
  • Muslim flight crews donned the hijab (non-Muslim crews were to be “decently dressed”)
  • There was a prayer before takeoff

Rayani-Air

As you can see, I’m writing about these points of differentiation in the past tense, because the airline didn’t last long. They ceased operations after only a few months.

I was skeptical about the viability of the business model. While some Muslim travelers may specifically seek out an airline that’s fully Sharia-compliant, arguably other airlines could meet the needs of Muslim travelers as well. Whether right or wrong, the reality is that these kinds of airlines are often avoided by non-Muslims, who may prefer the option of having a drink on their flight, for example (though in the case of Malaysia, Malaysia Airlines doesn’t serve alcohol on shorthaul flights either).

Well, if you thought that concept was unlikely to work, then here’s a concept that’s downright crazy, as reported on by The Sun.

Meet Firnas Airways, the UK’s new Sharia-compliant airline

Kazi Shafiqur Rahman, who refers to himself as the “halal Richard Branson,” wants to launch a Sharia-compliant airline in the UK. The airline is called Firnas Airways, and his goal is to launch an airline that is in line with his personal values, so you can expect airline employees will have specific dress code requirements, the food will be halal, etc.

Channel 4 in the UK is doing a documentary about his new business, called “How To Start An Airline,” though I’m not sure that name is necessarily reflective of what’s going on (perhaps “How To Light Money On Fire” may be a better name). Kazi is from Bangladesh, and when he came to the UK his first job was being a toilet cleaner at London City Airport, and eventually he became an entrepreneur in the perfume business. Then a couple of years ago he started putting all of his efforts into launching this airline.

Let me be clear — I would love to see this guy succeed, and I can only imagine how hard he has worked. He has even put a lot of his own money into the airline. But unfortunately a not-great business model is a not-great business model, no matter how much I want someone to succeed.

Plans for Firnas Airways

Kazi’s dream is to start a longhaul airline and fly to the Middle East, but he knew he had to start with shorthaul flying. So a while back he leased a 72 seat turboprop, then realized he couldn’t make money flying it, and ended the lease after losing a lot of money. Now he’s getting a lease on a 19 seat turboprop. He now hopes to launch operations within a few months, with the goal of offering flights in markets that aren’t served at all, or that are severely underserved.

As such that might not be a terrible business model, but the issue is that he’s trying to use Sharia-compliance as a selling point. That might work well if you’re operating flights in big markets with lots of competitors, where some people may seek that out.

But to make a point of operating a Sharia-compliant airline when you’re the only airline in a market is more questionable, especially in a country where only about 5% of the population is Muslim.

I’m not sure how much of what’s going on is specifically for TV, rather than serious, but some of the stuff he is doing sounds outlandish:

In the documentary, we follow Kazi as he opens negotiations to fly out of London’s Ashford Airport and Waterford Airport in Ireland.

Normally, airlines pay airports a fee in return for being allowed to fly from them, but wheeler-dealer Kazi was audacious enough to demand that the airports should be paying Firnas.

With this unorthodox request, Kazi gets a firm “no” and negotiations collapse, forcing his ego to make an emergency landing.

While Kazi doesn’t have any airline experience, it sounds like his chief consultant isn’t terribly optimistic:

Kazi’s chief adviser, veteran aviation consultant John Brayford, has been concerned about the feasibility of Kazi’s Sharia business plan from the start.

“If you look at the airlines around the world that don’t serve alcohol, there’s not one of them which can be considered successful,” John says.

So we’ll have to see how this goes. Kazi says he’ll launch flights within a couple of months, and that longhaul flights are just two to three years away.

I wish him the best, but…

Comments

  1. “Kazi’s dream is to start a longhaul airline and fly to the Middle East, but he knew he had to start with shorthaul flying.”

    Believe it or not, that’s one step ahead of Air Belgium.

  2. My uncle and his family live about a mile from Waterford Airport, and as a child it was fun to visit to see the planes coming into land. The Muslim population of Ireland is pretty small, and I believe most live in Dublin. I don’t honestly think that many Muslims would be looking to fly to and from Waterford. That said, I believe Ryanair’s first route was out of Waterford Airport, so maybe he’s hoping that would bring some luck?

  3. I’m sure they will have female pilots right? Is there a special section for gays so you know who to stone?

  4. totally agree with @Alvin up there. Air Belgium’s business model makes negative sense at this point (because zero isn’t low enough to explain their bone-headed-ness, assuming it’s even a legitimate business at all)

    Who wants to be buying tickets on an airline that might not operate the flight at random and might not even in business by the time you need to fly ?

  5. “Firnas” has been around for a number of years and I was approached by a recruiter/intermediary a couple of years ago to ask if I was interested in joining their “executive team”. I politely declined as I wasn’t even sure the recruiter was legit at the time with their comments about a “halal airline”. More power to them if they get off the ground, but their prospects of long-term viability are approximately zero.

  6. Is they’re a seating section dedicated to tranny’s and alcoholics?

    What the hell is he thinking running a beat jetstream that requires a lot of maintenance?

  7. Hmm take Ford onboard have a kids then tuck into your kosher meal….

    This type of thing just enforces the division that is developing in the UK with its Muslim Ghettos, generally dirty, and the hate that this creates both ways!

    You should give this divisive guy and credibility by publicising him.

  8. Muslim nut jobs are no worse than christian nut jobs.

    We need to have secular crusades. Any one that believes in god and religion should not be allowed to partake in anything produced by science unless they agree to have religion beaten out of them over a few days. No cars, planes and medicine for you. Just pray and ask God to help you, you #$%%#$^

  9. From “London” Ashford? An Airport nearer to France than to London. An a Muslim community with needs to go to southeastern Ireland in Southern Kent? Already with this route plans this airline won’t succeed. The market between Great Britain and Ireland is already filled.

  10. Each and every one of you laughing at Europeans warning about the Islamic take-over can sit down and shut up now.

    Lucky, as a fellow gay man, you cannot applaud this. No Muslim-majority country has anything close to equal rights for us.

    Watch lefties throw LGBTs under the bus when it comes to muslims.

  11. Its doomed before it even gets started. This moron did not learn about the failures of his failed Malaysian counterpart. In a country with 70% Muslims that concept failed, what are the chances in a country with less than 5.

  12. Britain is lost. There will be a kalifate soon. I just hooe other countries can stamd their ground. (germany and france lost too)

  13. “Let me be clear — I would love to see this guy succeed…”

    Would you welcome an airline operating to sharia law in the USA, Lucky?

    Less than 5% of the UK population was recorded as Muslim in the last National Census of 2011.

    This notion is sheer folly, an adventure and journey into self aggrandisement and media exposure for the founder.

    It is doomed to fail.

  14. I swear the amount of uneducated and bigoted reader posts in this blog sometimes rivals Fox News. You are part of the problem, not the solution.

  15. Utterly boned-headed. Why doesn’t he start this in the correct region like Egypt, Saudia, Pakistan, even Turkey? But there again, zealots are rarely rational.

  16. if 5% or even 10% of UK is Muslim and you have to figure some % of that already small number are not strict Muslims and have no issue flying normal airlines, plus their limited schedule and route network….I want some of what this dude is smoking.

  17. Flight attendants clad in burka, Women segregated from men, Gays and infidels segregated from the ‘believers’, what’s not to love.
    Wouldn’t be surprised if one of their planes happened to crash into a major landmark.

  18. @ James

    “Wayyyyyy more than 5% of the uk is Muslim”

    Fascinating. What’s your data source?

    The Office of National Statistics states:

    “Christianity was found to be the largest religious group with 59% of the population, followed by Muslims with 5%. The proportion of people who reported that they did not have a religion reached a quarter of the population.”

    Incidentally, of that 59% quoted, a teeny-tiny fraction goes to church or engages in any formal way. Claiming to be a member of the Church of England is for most people more a cultural habit than a statement of belief.

  19. @Fonzi “Britain is lost”. Oh, because somebody tries to start a new airline? Is that what it takes for a 5% minority to establish a caliphate now?
    Obviously any airline operating in the UK and flying to Ireland would have to comply with UK and European law, so it wouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against anyone.
    The comments on this blog are so stupid sometimes.

    Incidentally, I sat next to somebody on United yesterday who kept buying booze (spent about $80 on it) and was seriously drunk by the end. It was gross. How I would love for all short flights to be completely dry, and airlines imposing a 2-drink limit on longer flights! Forget the other stuff, if I hear about a dry airline I’ll consider flying it.
    The prospect of the airline going bankrupt any moment might keep me from booking though.

  20. There’s absolutely nothing bigoted about rejecting islam. Any country with islamic majorities have horrible human rights.

    The literal definition of a bigot is someone who claims to support LGBT rights AND islam. You can support one, not both. They’re incompatible.

  21. “that these kinds of airlines are often avoided by non-Muslims, who may prefer the option of having a drink on their flight”

    They’re also avoided by some Muslims as well, who also prefer the option of having a drink on their flight…

    “Britain is lost. There will be a kalifate soon”

    With only 5% of the population being Muslim? How would that work?

    “The literal definition of a bigot is someone who claims to support LGBT rights AND islam.”

    I’m not sure you understand what the definition of “literal” is…

  22. This guy will not succeed, as he and his company represent something that has no place in a modern and enlightened society.

  23. I’d love to see a Soul Plane type film revolving around a sharia-compliant airline. It would be such a laugh!

  24. @TheRealBabushka –
    The plot would start with Mahmoud being served a ‘halal’ bacon roll on a BA flight from London to Baghdad and his wife being damaged during transit. Then, he would win a lawsuit in Londonistan giving him the funds to start a sharia compliant airline.
    Infidels would be seperated and only emotional support women would be allowed in the cabin.
    The plot ends with pilot ahmed passing out from being entertained by 72 virgins and first officer CIA operative Tim Osman (Osama bin Laden) taking control crashing the plane into the burj khalifa.

  25. It’s one small way of NOT integrating into modern society, emphasizing the perceived divide between true believers vs. infidels – the goal of this religion. A tiny stream can erode rock. Totally against this. Actually – f@ck them.

  26. Being a Muslim, I know that while some people seek these kinds of things in Airlines, it is mostly in flights within their countries or to Saudi Arabia. Most people are accepting and won’t nessisarily seek this out on other routes. So he might want to start in Saudi Arabia, but he would be competing with their airline.

  27. @William Y –
    Just. Wow. You are bigoted. And uneducated. Even though your statement: “The literal definition of a bigot is someone who claims to support LGBT rights AND islam,” is factually incorrect you narrowed in on one segment of the Abrahimic faiths. Your statement, as ridiculous as it was should have at least read: “The literal definition of a bigot is someone who claims to support LGBT rights AND any Abrahimic faith,” since every one of them in some way or another denounces non hetero relationships (with the exception of a few “reform,” houses of worship that arguably aren’t even Abrahimic at that point).

    For reference: I support a person’s right to choose. Religion, no matter which you follow is between the person and their Creator, not for us to judge.

  28. While I totally agree this is a “protected class” that is now openly embracing the repressive tenets of medieval theocracies, I say let the free-market sort it out.
    But let’s be honest here: airlines are about one level above trailer parks at this point so maybe going dry and having a code of conduct isn’t a bad thing?
    On the other hand, this type of religious reverse-discrimination is no different that the gay wedding cake controversy in the USA. If they start imposing sharia above U.K. law the lawsuits and protests will be insane. I would love to see the LGBTQ crowd buy up 10% (the rough percentage of their demographic in the U.K.) and see how they are treated.

  29. “Let me be clear — I would love to see this guy succeed…”

    You would love that, wouldn’t you? Maybe not just succeed but even expand, why not? Maybe you would also love to fly it and review this airline?

    I can’t decide if you are out of your mind or just a hypocrite. Or maybe trying hard to be politically correct and not offend anyone. Weird.

  30. There’s only one mighty religion that will attract crowds! Money! USD, JPY, EUR, CHF, whatever floats your boat.

    At the end of the day, money is the main criteria for many passengers and the cheaper airline generally wins. The inflight meals of LCCs are halal: If nothing is included, then nothing can be against your religion *genius*

    As Stephen Colbert once said: The Middle East crisis is just misplaced bacon rage

  31. I can see them flying between Manchester and Birmingham, or even London. There’s quite a lot of Muslims in the first two cities I mentioned.

  32. @Mike, there is a HUGE difference between “sharia-compliant” and “sharia law”. What is the problem if someone thinks, whether correctly or not, that he might be able to serve the needs of religious Muslims? There are all kinds of specialized businesses catering to religious Christians and other faiths for that matter. I grew up as a Muslim, I’m not religious, but members of my family are. Reading some of the comments here, it really saddens me to think that some of my fellow Americans feel this way about my mother or other members of my family. Ironically, in many cases these are the same people that act all proud about “land of the free” or “united we stand”. If we are going to talk the talk, we better be ready to walk the walk.

    Friday is the biggest religious day for Muslims marking the end of Ramadan. Eid Mubarak everyone!

  33. For all our shortcomings ,I’m a proud Australian who takes comfort in the fact that the last census reported a surge in those reporting ‘no religion’ ( highest in the western world in that regard). As Clive James suggested: ” Religion is nothing more than an advertising agency for a product that doesn’t exist”
    At the ultra-orthodox end of the scale they’re all as bad as each other: weirdo Christians, loony Jews, nutty Muslims…all motivated by a desire to control the thoughts and actions of others. A pox on the lot of them!
    This airline won’t last 6 months.

  34. this is just sad. also, walk for 5 min around London and youll notice that theres no way only 5% of the population is muslim. theyre taking over europe at a crazy rate.

  35. @ yyc

    “I can see them flying between Manchester and Birmingham, or even London”

    I can’t. For all we criticise it, there’s an intensive and fast rail service between those cities which would make it a very odd decision to choose to fly instead (maybe if you had business at both airports or lived near one it might be less odd).

    Manchester-Birmingham is about 90 miles / 150km. Way too close to compete with rail.

    London-Birmingham has a train departing roughly every 15 minutes and takes between 1.5 and 2 hours. There’s also a choice of routes.

    The London-Manchester route may just about be viable for a small airline, though again there’s an intensive express rail service connecting the cities: British Airways gave up in the face of intense competition from British Rail.

    And all this before the new high-speed railway HS2 is built between exactly those cities.

    The received wisdom is that in a country with the geography of the UK, rail is the dominant medium until journey time reaches 3 or 4 hours; then we see modal shift to air. So London-Leeds is +/- all rail; London-Newcastle the vast majority is rail; London-Edinburgh or -Glasgow is much more finely balanced (the fastest London-Edinburgh train is currently 3 hours 59 minutes – “less than 4 hours” is a crucial marketing tool).

    I wouldn’t like to bet *my* pension fund on such a start-up.

  36. @ Schaefer

    “walk for 5 min around London and youll notice that theres no way only 5% of the population is muslim. theyre taking over europe at a crazy rate.”

    Ludicrous. To help you, let me tell you that *London is not the same as the rest of the UK*.

    For example, counting only French citizens, London would be the fourth biggest French city in the world.

    There are currently 50,000 Brazilians living in London (and getting a work visa is not so easy for them); are they the spearhead of a Latin American takeover plot?

    All this inflammatory language reminds me of the “yellow peril” scares that swept America in the early twentieth century. It’s the terror of other races which led to the main figure of evil in Flash Gordon being the oriental emperor Ming the Merciless (what a great name). It’s why the US panicked at the start of the Second World War and interned (a polite word for illegal imprisonment) thousands of its own citizens because they were “Japanese” and therefore The Enemy.

    Why would 5% Muslims be more successful at capturing the political agenda than the 25% of atheists?

    And remember that there are maybe a handful of places like London in the whole world – “world cities”. New York is another: no-one would extrapolate from NY and say it represented the whole US. So why would you do that with London?

    For a bit of balance, next time you’re in England why not take a day trip to the lovely medieval city of Norwich (there’s a nice KLM service direct from Schipol)? One of the most secular places in England, according to the last census, you’ll get a very different picture.

    London is +/- 10% of the UK. You need to look at the other 90% A’s well before you make judgements.

  37. Halal Richard Bransons airline will be called “Virgin 72” and will charge an extra 10% jizya surcharge for kuffar

  38. I think the idea of a Sharia airline is bound to fail, but it is a sad world when an airline needs to serve poison in order to succeed.

  39. Have You no moral compass whatsoever, Lucky? Sharia is incompatible with human rights and has even been declared so by the ECJ. Yet you welcome it in travel? Separating men and women. Segregation. Forcing halal food on all of the passengers (as British Airways too often does to satisfy a minority of customers flying to Islamic countries). Will he ban LGBT people? Or punish them? Or worse, as seen in brutal Islamic regimes. What about non-Muslims? Do they have to pay extra taxes as with Sharia? Mind-blowing ignorance on Sharia. Educate yourself before naming further cringeworthy comments.

  40. The easiest way to pick out bigots is simply to give them a reason to speak, especially on the internet, and watch the fun begin!

  41. This sharia compliant airline is utter bullocks.
    What are they going to do with LGBTQIA passengers? Are they going to ask us and treat us accordingly?I do not have a problem with people practicing their religion in a place of worship or at home, but I do not like how a sizable number of the muslim followers in the UK want to be impose their belief systems on others. I do agree, that the leftists over empathize with islamic followers, when they are set in their beliefs of imposing sharia and no LGBTQ Rights. Also, Channel four did a documentary on Islam in the UK, nearly half reported being against Homosexual marriages and homosexuals not being teachers. So how can I support a generally intolerant people, radical or not?

  42. @ Nick In Chicago – I’m unable to stoop to such an intellectual level to even consider arguing with you.

  43. Lucky is a travel professional who writes articles about the Industry in general. He can’t be biased. So allow him to write articles that focus on the core issues faced by Aviation in a neutral to races, religion and countries. If any of you who criticized Lucky had real brains, you would not have taken a dig at him. Lucky had actually used a subtle tone of mockery wherever required to criticize this ‘wild goose chase’ of an Aviation Investment. Even the article ends with the line – ‘I wish him the best but… ‘ . That indicates that his experience and knowledge denotes this Aviation endeavour by the so called Half Eaten Richard Branson is heading towards a downward spiral. Grow up blokes

  44. @Colin – It must be awful being so frustrated you have to feign taking the high ground isn’t it? Stay on that intellectual level of yours I’m sure it’s doing well for you….on the internet anyway.

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