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Pakistan International Airlines Flights to U.K. On The Horizon

A PIA A320 aircraft (Photo: Aasif Azaan / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0))

After three years of suspending the services, Pakistan International Airlines is expected to resume services to the U.K. in the coming three months according to Khawaja Saad Rafique, the aviation minister.

In addition, the airline is paving the way to resume flights to Europe after European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) passed PIA’s remote audit. EASA’s staff will go to Pakistan in September to conduct a physical audit of the airline and the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). However, there is no sign of lifting the restrictions from the U.S. FAA thus far. PIA ceased flight operations to the U.S. in 2017.

The country’s flag carrier was banned from flying to the U.K., the European Union and the U.S. since the plane crash in 2020. The deadly accident left 97 people dead. The report of the incident unveiled 262 pilots in the country had dodged the examination and 141 PIA pilots involved in the scandal.

“God willing, the PIA flights will resume at least to the U.K. in three months, and, later, flights to Europe and America will resume.” Rafique said.

The resumption could be a shot in the arm as the U.K. and Europe contributed 37% of its revenue. Rafique said the carrier had been facing a loss of Rs70 billion ($436 million) annually due to the suspension of the flights.

Meanwhile, PIA needs to keep the current slot at London’s Heathrow Airport for the future. The airport requires the airline to use at least 70% of the time. The report has revealed the airline has leased its slot to Vietnam Airlines and Kuwait Airways. As a result of the fake license incident, the airline needs to be restructured and requires billions of dollars in investment to avoid closure.

Future of the Airline

Rafique implied that privatization could be the answer to PIA, citing that Air India had recently placed an order for acquiring 450 aircraft. PIA couldn’t compete with other neighboring rivals with the current fleet of 27 or 28 operational aircraft. According to the carrier, the airline owns a fleet of 30 aircraft, operating regional services, such as Qatar, Malaysia and the Canadian city of Toronto.

The airline is facing a loss of Rs80 billion this year. Earlier this year, the cash-strapped airline’s flight was blocked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport over a debt.

Meanwhile, the government is trying to outsource the operations of Islamabad International Airport by Aug.12. Islamabad is set to be the first airport to outsource in the country and is expected to be outsourced for 15 years. Afterward, Karachi and Lahore Airport will follow in Islamabad’s footsteps.

The government said the navigational services and runway operations will not be outsourced. CAA will continue to provide the services.

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