Flying High – The Story of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)

by The House
Published: Last Updated on

Pakistan International Airlines, also known as PIA, is the national flag carrier airline of Pakistan. Founded in 1946, PIA is one of the oldest airlines in Asia. The airline operates a fleet of 29 aircraft. It offers scheduled services to a total of over 45 destinations across Pakistan and around the world.

PIA has a long and proud history, having played a key role in the development of Pakistan’s aviation industry. PIA commits itself to providing its passengers with a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable travel experience. With its modern fleet of aircraft and experienced crew, PIA offers its passengers a truly world-class flying experience.

The Pakistan International Airlines

Headquartered in Karachi, the airline has a strong domestic network, with over 24 destinations across Pakistan. The airline is a member of the International Air Transport Association.

The Pakistan International Airlines offers excellent value for money, with competitive fares and a wide range of services. The airline also offers a loyalty program, which gives passengers discounts on future travel.

History of PIA – Inception to Present Day

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The national Airline of Pakistan, PIA, has a long history of rise and falls. In its early years, PIA was a highly successful airline, but it has struggled in recent years. However, it remains an important part of the Pakistani economy. It also plays a vital role in connecting the country to the rest of the world.

Founding of a New Nation and Genesis of PIA

In the case of Pakistan, air travel has likely never been more crucial to the growth of a new nation. When Pakistan was still in the planning stages in June 1946, Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the country’s founder, gave an important industrialist the directive to establish a national airline as soon as possible. With his unique insight and vision, Mr. Jinnah understood the necessity of a quick and effective route of transportation provided the establishment of Pakistan’s two wings, which were at a distance of 1100 miles.

Orient Airways Fly High in the Air

On October 23, 1946, a brand-new airline was founded. When Orient Airways Ltd. was first formed as a pilot project in Calcutta, Mr. M.A. Ispahani served as Chair and Air Vice Marshal O.K. Carter as General Manager. An operating license was granted in May 1947, and the new carrier’s base remained in Calcutta.

Operations began on June 4th 1947 after acquiring four Douglas DC-3s from Tempo of Texas in Feb. 1947. Calcutta-Akyab-Rangoon was the specified route for Orient Airways. It also occurred to be the initial post-war foreign sector operated by an operator registered in India. Pakistan came into being two months after Orient Airways started operating. One of the greatest population transfers in human history resulted from the creation of a new nation.

Orient Airways began relief efforts and provided passenger transportation between the two capitals of Delhi and Karachi. It carried out the transportation with the aid of BOAC aircraft, which the Pakistani authorities had chartered. Following this, Orient Airways moved its headquarters to Pakistan. Thus, it created a crucial connection linking Karachi with Dacca, the twin capitals of Pakistan’s two wings. Orient Airways began its regular operations in a fairy-tale fashion. It started with a small network of only two DC-3s, three staff members, and twelve mechanics.

Initial routes included Karachi-Delhi, Calcutta-Dacca, Karachi-Quetta-Lahore, and Karachi-Lahore-Peshawar. Ten DC-3s and three Convair 240s were acquired by Orient Airways before the end of 1949 and used on these routes. It had become more clear by 1950 that more capacity would need to be added in order to meet the expanding demands of the subcontinent.

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Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Comes into Being

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Privately held and with little funding and resources, Orient Airways operated. It could hardly be expected to develop and grow on its own. The Pakistani government made the decision to create a state-owned airline at that time. And it encouraged Orient Airways to combine with it. By means of the PIAC Ordinance 1955, passed on January 10, 1955, a new airline emerged as a result of the merger.

Along with its transportation operations, Orient Airways also built the foundation for renovation and maintenance centres. It hired qualified pilots, engineers, and technicians. These actions proved to be a huge help to PIA during its formative years.

The First International Flight of PIA

The budding airline launched its first scheduled international flight in 1955. It traveled to the dazzling, opulent capital city of London via Cairo and Rome. When the international channel was first opened, it drew a lot of criticism since, in the perspective of the public, other projects that were more important for a growing economy should’ve received a greater priority.

However, PIA’s primary goal has been and still is to assist the entire Pakistani community. One of the national airline’s top focuses has continued to be providing transportation to expats. Additionally, PIA generated significant foreign currency through its overseas services. It used this money to expand its fleet by purchasing aircraft and spare components.

Golden Period of PIA

The Pakistani government selected Air Commodore Nur Khan as Managing Director of PIA in 1959. With his inspiring leadership, PIA “took off” and in just 6 short years achieved the rank and reputation of one of the frontline carriers in the world. This time period is frequently referred to as the “golden years of PIA” in aviation circles.

The new administration was focused on growth, expansion, and development. The London-Karachi-Dacca route was the first Boeing 707 jet flight that PIA offered, and it eventually turned out to be a highly popular one. As a result of this ground-breaking achievement, PIA became the first Asian carrier to fly a jet plane, setting precedents for the future.

PIA’s Historical Milestones and Records Still Not Broken

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In 1962, PIA set out to achieve a new record for the quickest trip among London and Karachi after determining that the upper winds projections were favorable. FAI (Federation Aeronautique International) representatives were on board to monitor the official timings, and PIA finished the flight in a record-setting 6 hours, 43 minutes, and 51 seconds.

Another significant accomplishment of PIA was in 1964, which is a significant turning point in the airline’s turbulent past. PIA achieved the honor of being the first carrier from a non-communist nation to take a flight into the People’s Republic of China on April 29, 1964, using a Boeing 720B. From Karachi to Shanghai through Canton, PIA’s first route to China was offered.

A fourth Boeing 720B and two Fokker F-27s added to PIA’s fleet in 1964–1965, considerably growing it. The PIA team kept moving forward with lofty plans and ambitions for the national airline as substantial growth became a reality. Within the PIA family, there was a palpable sense of pride and joy.

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In the middle of the 1960s, PIA, riding high on its wave of success, became well-known throughout Pakistan. The national airline was put to the test once more in 1965 during the conflict between India and Pakistan. By flying special flights aboard Boeings, Super Constellations, as well as Viscounts, PIA significantly contributed to the logistical support of the Armed Forces. The Pakistan Airforce needed the backing of a civil airline under extraordinary situations, as Mr. Jinnah, the nation’s founder, had prophesied, and this demonstrated during the war.

The airline noticed a shift in the top position around 1966. In charge of PIA for three years was Air Vice Marshal Asghar Khan. This time period credits with a lot of achievements. The launch of a new air hostess costume created by none other than renowned French designer Pierre Cardin was the most colorful, if not the most crucial, event for PIA. This action, like no other single element, cemented PIA’s reputation on the global market and took the aviation industry by storm. Both domestically and overseas, the outfits were an immediate success.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Today

Pakistan International Airlines has been facing many problems in recent years, the most prominent of which is corruption and mismanagement. In 2016, an audit report revealed that PIA had lost Rs. 36 billion due to corruption and mismanagement. This followed by another report which showed that the airline had incurred a loss of Rs. 42 billion in the last financial year. These reports have led to calls for an overhaul of the management of PIA, with some even calling for its privatization.

Unfortunately, in recent years, PIA has experienced ten significant crashes in addition to numerous lesser events where the lives of passengers were at risk. Just last year, a Jeddah-bound plane made an emergency landing in Lahore, while a PIA ATR-42 skidded off the runway while attempting to land in Gilgit. Additionally, incidents of drug smuggling and trafficking involving PIA employees frequently come to light.

As of June 30, 2019, the PIA’s total debt was around 400 billion Pakistani rupees. With the airline presently reporting deficit of 6.3 billion rupees for each month, that amount is rapidly reaching the 500 billion mark. The COVID-19 epidemic, which has affected the world aviation sector, has brought the PIA’s long-standing issues back to light despite recent successes in reducing operating losses.

Five-year Plan for PIA’s Revival

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The government received a five-year business plan from a foreign consultant in February, 2022, for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which called for a fleet expansion of 20 aircraft, as well as administrative and financial reforms, in order to turn the airline around by 2026. The plan’s main objectives are to increase local market share, streamline and realign the global network, set up Islamabad as a hub by 2025, diversify revenue streams, and cut operational costs.

The consultant predicted that, after accounting for the five-year plan’s improvement initiatives, operating margins would rise 0.4% in 2025 and 3.4% in the plan’s final year. It proposed that the government support both the financial and organizational transformation processes. Additionally, it asked for exclusions from numerous audits and inquiries. It also suggested concentrating on profitable international air routes, restarting operations to Europe and New York, plus adding more international routes in Asia.

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On trips to North America, the UK, the Gulf, and Saudi Arabia, it advised keeping a point-to-point strategy. It also suggested establishing a limited hub functioning in Islamabad and sustaining additional sections for the Hajj and Umrah. Over PIA’s 2019 figures of 10 hours per day, the estimated aircraft utilization is expected to increase by up to 15%. The consultant predicted that the local market would return to 2019 scales in 2022 whereas the consultant predicted that foreign traffic would return to 2019 levels by 2024. The proposed approach for repositioning PIA takes into account both the internal and external market conditions.

PIA’s Modern Fleet

Modern aircraft from PIA are roomy, comfortable, and built to carry you safely to your destination. PIA has flown the most popular jets in the world, the Boeing 777, as well as the incredibly quiet Airbus A-320.

Wide-body, twin-engine aircraft with great range make up the Boeing 777 family. The 777-200LR, 777-200ER, and 777-300ER were the first three models of the 777 family that PIA operated.

In addition, PIA enjoys the distinction of having been the launch client for the 777-200LR, one of its aircraft and holder of the aviation milestone for the longest commercial jet flight. Currently, PIA uses its 777 aircraft to provide service to locations in the USA, Canada, UK, and Europe.

One of the most popular narrow-body short/medium-haul jet aircraft in use today is the Airbus A320. Because of its properly sized fuselage, it improves passenger comfort while also earning a reputation as a fuel-efficient aircraft. A320 aircraft serves most of PIA’s local and national routes.

ATR is the most recent type of aircraft to join PIA’s fleet as a turboprop with cutting-edge technology. The ATR 42-500 and ATR 72-500 airplanes have a cozy two-class seating configuration. This aircraft has made it possible for PIA to offer its devoted customers the most practical means of traveling by air to distant and remote locations across the nation that the other modes of transportation served infrequently.

The Bottom Line

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In conclusion, PIA is an international airline with a record history. It can regain its world-class position with some effort by overcoming the mismanagement and corruption. The airline has the potential to become one of the best in the world, but it will require dedication and hard work to get there.

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