With 18 of its 34 planes getting grounded, cash-strapped Pakistan International Airlines has plunged into serious operational crisis after its flight carrying 47 people crashed near Islamabad.
The PIA was forced to ground its entire ATR fleet (10 planes) after its flight PK-661 carrying 47 people, including iconic pop star-turned-Islamic-preacher Junaid Jamshed, crashed on its way to Islamabad in northern hill valley Chitral on December 7.
Of its total 34 planes, some 18 have been grounded for one reason or another since December 7, leaving impossible for PIA to manage operating its daily 125 domestic and international flights with less than half of the fleet available at the moment.
Five other aircraft including A-20s and Boeing 777s are grounded on technical grounds and today the PIA retired its three A310 as they have outlived their utility.
PIA’s domestic and international operation has seriously been affected as the ATRs were operational on 45 domestic and some international flights including Kabul, Muscat and Sharjah.
The A310s were operational on different international routes, including Beijing, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and Saudi Arabia.
On the other hand, the PIA in October last had advertised for acquiring wide and narrow body aircraft on wet and dry lease for both short and long terms.
However, no foreign aircraft leasing company has reportedly shown interest to make a deal with it.
“The international companies have apprehensions about leasing planes to the PIA because of its financial health and its poor past record,” a senior PIA official said on Friday.
However a couple of them are offering planes to the PIA but on ‘very strict terms and conditions’, he added. At present, the PIA’s is facing an accumulated loss of Rs 350 billion.
“Although we are facing problems in managing our operation with 20 or so planes after the grounding of ATRs, retiring of A310s and some other planes because of technical reasons we have advertised for acquiring new aircraft on dry and wet lease and expect to have them in our fleet coming weeks,” PIA General Manager Public Affairs Danyal Gilani said.
He said some of the ATRs would rejoin the PIA fleet after clearing shakedown test as one of them has already done so. He said the PIA’s operation will be smooth again once it gets new planes on lease.