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Revival of national airline: US govt. will help PIA resume direct flights


News Desk |

The United States (US) has assured Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) of facilitating in carrying direct flights to the three major cities, including New York, Chicago, and Houston, according to a handout on Wednesday. The announcement came during a visit of US Consulate General Joanne Wagner to PIA head office. She was accompanied by senior officials of diplomatic corps of US Consulate.

“Arshad Malik [PIA Chief Executive Officer] requested US diplomatic team for facilitating PIA for having direct flights to US cities including New York, Chicago and Houston etc,” the statement reads. Malik said while flying to the US via any en-route transit makes the flight economics unviable.

The announcement came during a visit of US Consulate General Joanne Wagner to PIA head office.

“Wagner assured the PIA to help in facilitating by contacting the relevant US departments in resolving PIA issues, including having direct access to US mainland,” it added. “We are optimistic about relations to grow in future between both countries,” said US Consulate General.

Arshad Malik briefed the visiting delegation about PIA’s plan to expand its fleet by the acquisition of new aircraft, taking the airline back to glory. Under the plan, in the next five years, number of aircraft will be increased from 32 to 50, i.e addition of 18 planes. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) had decided to suspend its flight operations to New York in December 2017.

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PIA sources claim that this decision was long in waiting, and was due to sectoral losses that were now around Rs.450 million (Rs. 45 Crore) each year. However, PIA sources that spoke to GVS also wonder if this is the kind of decision that will help turn around Pakistan’s national carrier. Dr. Musharraf Rasool, the former CEO, with vast experience in the public policy sector within Pakistan and abroad, was expected to bring in more revenues by extending operations to new unchartered territories.

But his activities raised many eyebrows and Supreme Court in September last year declared the appointment of Musharraf illegal as no shortlisting was done and he had no prior experience in aviation.

Arshad Malik briefed the visiting delegation about PIA’s plan to expand its fleet by the acquisition of new aircraft, taking the airline back to glory.

PIA, till recent past, used to fly to destinations in Europe like Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Glasgow, and others. It’s still flying to London, Manchester, and Paris but over the past 10 years is shutting down more and more of its routes to such international destinations without really accounting for any business advantages or gains in the process.

PIA historically had landing rights at five international airports within the United States: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington. But gradually it has stopped flying to these destinations. It’s not clear to media, public and most inside PIA as to how the airline has benefited from the suspension of those routes? Has it gone for “Code Sharing” with other private airlines?

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What kind of commercial deals it has struck with other airlines if any? Or has it just let those landing rights disappear under long “suspension” and “disuse” of facilities. What will it do to the landing rights it enjoys in New York? These are the important questions which PIA management and its new CEO must address and share with the public to gain trust for its decisions.

PIA sources claim that this decision was long in waiting, and was due to sectoral losses that were now around Rs.450 million each year

Initially, PIA used to have seven flights to John F Kennedy Airport (JFK) each week, but then it was only flying twice. It acquired its Boeing- 777, with the express intention of flying directly to New York, but due to objections of Home Land Security and Transport Security Agency (TSA) it could not fly directly and was stopping in Manchester, UK on the way.

Read more: PIA removes Markhor logo on court orders

The only time PIA seriously negotiated with Home Land Security was during the time period when Rao Qamar Suleiman was its MD, and the matter was almost resolved but then Qamar Suleiman left due to illness and his successors were lost in other issues. PIA has endured a tough time in recent past and all fields including operations, finance, planning, engineering, and passenger services have been below par.