Firnas Airways: How not to start an airline

Plane crash tv showing one mans dream to start an airline with no money and no routes

Firnas Airways Management

Last night Channel 4 aired a documentary called “How to start an airline” which followed one man’s dream to start an airline with no previous experience and using other peoples money.

The programme followed perfume seller turned self-styled “Halal Richard Branson” Kazi Shafiqur Rahman as he embarked on a journey to start a Sharia-compliant long-haul airline.

Kazi’s only previous aviation experience came as an aircraft cleaner at London’s City Airport (LCY/EGLC) but he has managed to bring onboard respected aviation consultant John Brayford to help guide him towards take off.

The problem for Kazi, however, is that his naivety quickly gets him into hot water by signing a lease deal on a £1m ATR aircraft with no routes to fly.

Aiming to fly the apparently underserved route between Lydd (London Ashford) Airport and Waterford Kazi effectively blew off both airports with his unique negotiating style which involved him expecting the airports to pay him £250,000 rather than the traditional route of airlines paying the airports. During negotiations, he asked Lydd Airport “so how much are you going to give us?”

Kazi was also back-tracking on his Sharia-compliant policy by this point also which saw him labelled a hypocrite by British Muslims TV’s Sisters Hour, after he went on to talk about his Sharia-compliant policy, only to tell the presenters he was probably not going to do that after all.

With no airports and no routes, Kazi has to kiss goodbye to his ATR lease effectively killing his reputation with Aircraft leasing companies.

Things were not looking great for Firnas Airways.

Thankfully John Brayford steps in and gives Kazi a wake-up call in a kebab restaurant in London during which possibly the most cringe-worthy line in the entire programme was uttered. John Brayford pointed out to Kazi that one of the airports said that they felt Kazi didn’t look as if he was there to do business to which Kazi replied: “it was Polo Ralph Lauren though”. Kazi was over an hour late to that meeting that saw Kazi act like a petulant child who was being told off by his headteacher.

Enter businessman extraordinaire and former Links Air boss Jon Ibboston who after seeing an opportunity to offload one his Jetstream 31 aircraft convinced Kazi to buy the aircraft (formerly G-LNKS) which had been hangared in South Wales since Links Air had their operators certificate revoked by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. Jon Ibbotson is also the pilot.

The aircraft was promptly registered onto the Guernsey-based 2 register as 2-LCXO to allow it to fly, not for commercial purposes, so investors could see it.  As Ibbotson points out, even Richard Branson started off with one aircraft, the difference, of course, is that Richard Branson started with a Boeing 747 flying transatlantic. Kazi is starting with a 19 seat turboprop with no routes.

During this time Kazi was using crowd-funding to raise investment for his airline. As he points out in the programme just because he doesn’t have the money in his bank accounts he can find others who do.  Effectively, wanting to start the airline with other peoples money. To date, we understand that around £400,000 has been raised.

As the programme goes on you see Kazi’s dream drop from long-haul routes to the middle east down a Jetstream 31 doing short-hop charter work. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the most common reaction on social media to the programme was the question as to whether this was a spoof.

There is a saying that the easiest way to make £1m in aviation is to start with £1bn so we aren’t too sure where Kazi will end up with his modest start-up amount but he is currently offering private charters from Bournemouth and he says for a 2-hour return trip he will keep it under £10,000 for you. Once he actually obtains an Air Operators Certificate of course.

Probably the most telling part of the programme is Kazi’s education on aviation and how much really is involved financially. You can’t fault his passion for aviation, he is a genuine AvGeek but the big question is whether he will completely learn and get out before he loses everything.

The name Firnas Airways comes from Abbas ibn Firnas, a Spanish Muslim inventor who reputedly carried out the first human flight in 875AD. Sadly for Kazi that fact is probably as fictional as his airline.

If you missed the programme or simply want to rewatch the carnage then it is available on All 4. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/how-to-start-an-airline

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About Nick Harding 1238 Articles
Nick is the senior reporter and editor at UK Aviation News as well as working freelance elsewhere. He has his finger firmly on the pulse on Aviation, not only in the UK but worldwide. Nick has been asked to speak in a professional capacity on LBC, Heart and other broadcast networks.

10 Comments

    • Thanks for your comment, Mustafa. However, given Firnas Airways has gone from a Full-Service Airline “idea” using other peoples money down to Kazi merely acting as a charter flight broker I would say that it is perhaps you that needs to stand up to stop the mumbling. Of course, you are welcome to share the details of this mysterious Firnas Airways commercial flight you claim to have flown, especially given that Firnas Airways doesn’t even have an aircraft let alone an operators certificate. Once again though, thanks for your comment 🙂

    • Mustafa,
      I’d really take time and read this article by Nick again. Also, read his polite and professional reply to your moronic statement.
      Nick couldn’t have been more unbiased and objective in his observation.
      Who would, in their right mind, plan to start an airline to serve the Irish…and ban alcohol?
      You kiddin’ me.
      The Airline Lessor folks were overly polite to this sad character.
      Ashford Airport Manager knew how not to waste his time.
      Winner: “…businessman extraordinaire and former Links Air boss, Jon Ibboston.”
      Loser: Mustafa (Kazi never had a chance).
      I’d like Nick to do the follow-up and find out what happened to $444K.
      Good job, Nick.
      I enjoyed reading your analysis.

      • Hi Farooq, Thanks for your comments. Your wish may be granted soon, it’s in the pipeline.

  1. He’s finally abandoned his far-fetched plans, and is now offering private jet charter using wet-leased aircraft. Though, I managed to spend £50 and get myself a nice 737-800 model, from the days when they were trying to be the next big airline.

  2. He definitely has an ambition, but I hope he wouldn’t go into depression if the airline ever feels.

    • “A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish.”
      ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ~

      Kazi doesn’t even seem to know what ‘Plan’ is, let alone having one. Many people are ambitious and set goals…but then they’re lost ‘Daydreaming’.
      There are way too many holes in Kazi’s story… am looking forward to Nick’s Exposé Part II!

  3. I live in USA and during my current lockdown was intrigued to watch Firnas Airlines. I was gob smacked that someone is so ignorant about the airline industry in general. I did watch all 43 minutes of agony and being in the aviation business I shared the documentary link with my aviation experts. One responded “After 3 minutes I had seen enough” and ” What a twat”. Pretty much sums this dude and his dreams up. Was it for real though or a comedy piss take? From a lock-up-garage to wanting to start an airline. What a numb nut. Not a great advert for Bangladeshi Muslim population that seeks business credibility.

  4. I was apart of this comedy drama, but when Kazi realised there is more money to be made by collecting investments and pumping it into his Sunnamusk business.

    Kazi and he’s family are crooks, they sell £1 perfumes literally pound shop crap at highly inflated prices. Just a half decent con man.

    He lives a government subsidised social flat in East London so does his family, I mean one cannot launch a airline living in slums.

    The minor investment money had run out fast and then Kazi employed another back street web developer to buy a $59 dollar theme from themeforest and hay presto… Firnas private is born. You cannot book anything and all his prices are about 25 percent dearer than NetJets… You do the math.

    • Abdul, thanks for your honesty and deciding not to be part of Kazi’s scheme!
      Within minutes of watching the video, one begins to question everything.
      What do you think of John Brayford?
      What do you think of Jon Ibboston?
      What I noticed is this:
      1. Without AOC, one cannot do anything. There was no mention of this at all by Kazi. He seems more interested in a plane than anything else.
      2. The video never showed who sat on the Captain’s seat and actually flew the plane during demonstration – Jon sat on the right side wearing his jacket with 4 stripes…but did not fly the plane…yet, he’s out there standing wearing captain’s uniform (he’s the owner of Links Air that was grounded/cancelled by CAA – I’d like to know if Jon has valid pilot’s license or not when he wore that uniform…and pretended to fly the plane).
      3. How much money Ibboston and Brayford scammed from Kazi to get the plane in working order and have it painted?
      4. Were all 3 involved in this scam, or just two (any two)?
      Well, there are so many questions, but let’s start with these few first.
      Cheers.

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