Pakistan International Airlines Corporation, more commonly known as Pakistan International Airlines or PIA (Urdu: پی آئی اے or پاکستان انٹرنیشنل ایرلاینز), is the flag carrier airline of Pakistan, based in Karachi. It is the 16th largest airline in Asia, operating scheduled services to 73 destinations throughout Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America, as well as an extensive domestic network linking 24 destinations. Its main bases are Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore and the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad/Rawalpindi. The airline also has secondary bases, including Peshawar International Airport, Faisalabad International Airport, Quetta International Airport and Multan International Airport, from which it connects the metropolitan cities with the main bases, the Middle East and the Far East. The airline is owned by the Government of Pakistan (87%) and other shareholders (13%). It currently employs 18,043 employees as of May 2008.
Pakistan International Airlines, or PIA for short, can trace its beginnings to the days when Pakistan still was not an independent state. In 1946 Muhammed Ali Jinnah realised the need for an airline network for the forming country and called upon the help of an experienced industrialist Mirza Ahmad Ispahani to develop a flag carrier for the nation. Meanwhile, an airline called Orient Airways, registered in Kolkata, was formed on October 23 1946. In February 1947, the airline brought three DC-3 airplanes from a company in Texas, and in May of that year the airline was granted a licence to fly. Services were started in June from Kolkata to Sittwe and Yangon. This was the first post-war airline flight by a South Asian registered airline company. Two months after this service began, Pakistan was formed. Orient Airways began relief flights to the new nation and, soon after, it moved its operations to Karachi, where it began flights to Dhaka on June 7, 1954. In addition, the first two domestic routes in Pakistan were established, from Karachi to Lahore to Peshawar, and from Karachi to Quetta to Lahore.
The Government of Pakistan, realizing the operation was failing economically, proposed that Orient Airways merge into a new national airline. On March 11 1955, Orient Airways merged with the government's proposed airline, becoming Pakistan International Airlines Corporation. During the same year the airline opened its first international service, from Karachi to London Heathrow Airport via Cairo International Airport and Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino, Italy, using the Lockheed L-1049C Super Constellation. The DC-3s continued operating the domestic services in Pakistan. In May 1956, PIA ordered two Super Lockheed Constellations and five Vickers Viscount 815. In 1959, Malik Nur Khan was named Managing Director.
In March 1960, PIA became the first Asian airline to enter the jet age when Boeing 707 services were introduced. The aircraft were wet leased from Pan American and in 1961 services were begun to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. In 1962, orders were placed for Boeing 720's, Fokker F27's and Sikorsky helicopters. One of PIA's own new Boeing 720s broke a world record that year, when it flew from London to Karachi non-stop in 6 hours, 43 minutes, and 55 seconds during its delivery flight from Seattle, piloted by PIA's ace Captain Abdullah Baig, whose record is unbroken to this day. During 1962, services to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) were proving to be difficult, therefore PIA placed their Sikorsky S-61 helicopters on these routes until 1966 when conditions improved. In 1964 history was made again when PIA became the first airline from a non-communist country to fly to the People's Republic of China. As the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 broke out, PIA helped the Pakistani forces with logistics and transport. In 1966, the Viscounts were phased out, substituted by four Tridents. However, as growth surpassed the need for these aircraft, they were later sold to Civil Aviation Administration of China.
The 1970s saw the resumption of transatlantic flights and new destinations. It once again aided the Pakistan Army by transporting soldiers to East Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and lost a couple of its aircraft to Indian Air Force fighters.. In 1972 it applied to operate to Libya and an agreement was signed with Yugoslav airline JAT. In 1973, McDonnell Douglas DC-10s arrived and were used by the airline before they were replaced by Boeing 747s. In 1974 air freight services started, as well as a cargo service to New York under the name, Pakistan International Cargo. In 1975, PIA introduced new uniforms for air hostesses. These uniforms were chosen through an open competition, and the winning entry was a design by Sir Hardy Ames who was a personal designer of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In 1976, leased Boeing 747s came into service. In 1978, the airline bought their first Boeing 747 aircraft, which have since become a workhorse of the airline's fleet. Also in 1978 the airline provided help to Somali Airlines, Air Malta and Yemenia as well as it established a hotel management service in the United Arab Emirates. PIA also leased two of its own Boeing 720s to Air Malta during the 70s.
The 1980s began with the opening of a cargo centre in Karachi and the delivery of a new aircraft, Airbus A300B4-203. In 1981, a duty-free sales service was inaugurated. During 1982, the first C and D checks were carried out on the fleet in Karachi. In 1984, domestic night coach fare service was introduced to offer more economical prices for low-income passengers. In 1985 the PIA Planetarium tourist attraction was inaugurated in Karachi and later in Lahore. In the same year, five Boeing 737-300s joined the fleet making PIA the first Asian operator of such a type. Two former PIA Boeing 720Bs now form part of the Planetarium's exhibition at Karachi and Lahore. In late 1987 and early 1988, flights were introduced to Malé and to Toronto Pearson International Airport, respectively. In 1989, the first women pilots started their career on passenger airplanes.
During June 1991, PIA received the first of six Airbus A310-308 aircraft on from Airbus Industrie. In 1992, flights started to Tashkent and in 1993, to Zürich, Switzerland. In addition, PIA became a user of the Sabre, Galileo and Amadeus global distribution systems. During 1994, PIA added Jakarta, Fujairah, Baku and Al-Ain to its destinations. Air Safari flights were launched in the same year using Boeing 737-300 aircraft over the Karakoram Range mountains. In 1995, PIA received a Boeing 747 flight simulation system and a used Air France A300 aircraft was bought. In 1996 the airline leased Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft, and re-opened services to Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport.
PIA only used the Tupolev Tu-154 for a very short time to deal with the additional demand during the summer of 1996. In 1999, PIA leased five Boeing 747-300 aircraft from Cathay Pacific to replace its aging Boeing 747-200 fleet. The aircraft wore a new livery with a handwork Pashmina tail on white body and large Pakistan titles on the front fuselage. The livery was applied to some of the fleet during the 90s but due to copyright problems the livery was dropped. The Boeing 747-300s remained in the new look but with a plain green tail with PIA titles. The other aircraft in the fleet were repainted in the 1990s livery.
In July 2002, PIA purchased six Boeing 747-300 aircraft from Cathay Pacific, five of which were already on lease with PIA. The sixth arrived shortly after and PIA operated the six aircraft mainly on its North American and European routes. In October 2002, after a period of ten years without any new order, the airline purchased eight Boeing 777 aircraft from The Boeing Company, including three 200 ER (Extended Range), two 200 LR (Longer Range) and three 300 ER versions. PIA was the launch customer that revived the Boeing 777-200LR project that, until then, only had three orders by EVA Air. The first two Boeing 777-200LR produced were test aircraft used by Boeing, before they were delivered to PIA. One of these Boeing 777-200LR was displayed at the Paris Airshow during 2005.
During 2004, PIA took delivery of its first Boeing 777 aircraft in Januar. On delivery of the first three Boeing 777s the airline introduced a new aircraft livery, which was later applied to the majority of the fleet. PIA also acquired six half life Airbus A310-300/ET from the Airbus management on a ten year lease agreement. On November 3, 2005 PIA signed an agreement with the aircraft manufacturer, ATR to purchase seven ATR42-500. The aircraft were purchased to replace the aging F-27 aircraft. The seven ATR aircraft were delivered between 2006 and 2007. On 6 December 2005, PIA leased an additional new Boeing 777 from the International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC). The aircraft had the same specifications as the previous Boeing 777-200ER that PIA operated. The aircraft was delivered in January 2007 on ten year lease to the airline. On February 25, 2006 Boeing delivered its first B777-200LR Worldliner to PIA, where it flew from Everett to Islamabad via Manchester, England. PIA started nonstop flights from Toronto to Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore from March 3 2006 taking advantage of Boeing 777's long range capability. PIA planned non-stop flights to New York City and other US cities with sizable Pakistani population centres, but was not given permission due to security reasons. On May 31, 2006, PIA took delivery of its first ATR aircraft from Toulouse, France. On December 23, 2006, PIA took delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ER. After the arrival of a second ATR 42-500, PIA has ceased using military Lockheed C-130 Hercules for passenger services in the north of Pakistan. The military planes were being used after the Fokker F27 fleet was grounded due to a fatal crash in July 2006.
On March 5, 2007, the European Commission banned all but eight planes of PIA's 44-planes fleet flying to Europe citing safety concerns. PIA was blacklisted by 27 European Union states. The remaining eight, namely the fleet of 777s, has been exempted from the ban. PIA claims that this is discriminatory and the bans are not justifiable. On March 26, 2007, Tariq Saeed Kirmani resigned after severe pressure from higher authorities because of the EU ban. Zafar Khan was appointed as the new Chairman of Pakistan International Airlines. A team of European Union visited Karachi in July 2007, to check the condition of the planes and review the ban. On July 5, 2007, the EU lifted the restriction on 11 aircraft that PIA could fly into Europe, of which five were Boeing 747's and six Airbus A310s. . On November 29, 2007, The EU completely lifted the ban on PIA and stated they were happy with the conditions of the fleet..
On August 10, 2007, PIA signed an agreement with Aviation Lease and Finance Company (ALAFCO) to lease seven Airbus A320s to replace its Boeing 737-300 fleet. The deliveries are expected in 2009 and will be completed in the same year.. On March 19, 2008, PIA decided to retire its Boeing 747 fleet due to rising fuel costs and placed the aircraft on sale. . On May 7, 2008, Captain M. Aijaz Haroon was appointed the new Managing Director. On May 21, 2008 the airline decided to re-introduce the Boeing 747s. On July 2 2008, PIA commenced services to Leeds/Bradford Airport using the Airbus A310.
|long, medium and short haul|
(Europe, Far East, Gulf, Subcontinent, domestic)
|6 leased from Airbus Industrie|
(Afghanistan, Gulf, India, domestic)
|Phase out from 2009|
|short and medium haul|
(Saudi Arabia, domestic)
|long and medium haul|
(Europe, Saudi Arabia, USA, domestic)
|1 leased from ILFC|
|short and ultra-long haul|
(Saudi Arabia, North America, UK, domestic)
|long and medium haul|
(Saudi Arabia, UK, USA, domestic)
|40||Updated OCTOBER 2008|
In December 2003 PIA introduced a new image that was applied to their first 777-200ER and on two leased A310-300s one of which was in service, due to negative feedback the design on the 777 and single A310 was modified before delivery to PIA with the tail being painted beige and a flowing Pakistan flag added to it, the PIA acronym was enlarged and moved onto the fuselage, the other A310 continued operating in the original version for a while before being repainted.
In early 2006 the airline decided to launch four new tail designs for its fleet. The tails represented the four provinces of Pakistan: Sindh, Punjab, Northwest Frontier Province and Balochistan.. The tails were to promote the different cultures of the four provinces of Pakistan by applying motifs to the tails and adding a city name to the rear of the fuselage corresponding to the province. A "Destination Pakistan 2007" logo was added below the cockpit of most aircraft. The "Frontier" tail represents the "Phulkari" (flowering) pattern that reflects a rich and colourful tradition of embroidery generally done on shawls, shirts and linen. The "Punjab" tail is loosely related to the exquisite tile decoration of the Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore. The "Balochistan" tail is a striking and colourful reflection of robust creativity is seen in the kilims, carpets and rugs woven with wool, goat or camel hair and mixed yarn. The pattern is mostly bold geometric motifs in primary colours dominated by red. The "Sindh" tail was influenced from the Hala tile work with electric blue and white floral patterns.
It was only since 2003 that PIA decided to launch a full courier service and introduced "PIA Speedex". The service was started in the three metro cities: Karachi, Lahore, and Rawalpindi/Islamabad; expanding within a year to 12 cities. Today, the airline offers over 70 locations within Pakistan, with shipments collected and delivered from customers' homes. From 2004 to September 2007, PIA Cargo operated two Airbus A300 Freighter aircraft through MNG Airlines under wetlease/ACMI to Haan and Luton; initially these also operated to Amsterdam, Basel and Cologne.
PIA operates a two-month (pre- and post-) Hajj operation each year to and from Jeddah and sometimes Madinah in Saudi Arabia. PIA transports over 130,000 intending pilgrims each year from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Multan, and Sukkur to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In order to deal with the demand, the airline leases many different aircraft including Boeing 747-200s, Airbus A321s, Airbus A300B4s and Boeing 737-400s.
When the government changed after a military coup in 1999, the Boeing B737 was transferred to PIA permanently. The President and Prime Minister then resorted to using two of PIA's Airbus A310-300 for official visits, while rare trips were done on regular commercial flights of the airline. In February 2007 the government of Qatar gifted one of their VIP fleet A310 to the Pakistani government, this has ended the need for use of PIA aircraft. However, from time to time the government does occasionally use the airline's Boeing 737 or Airbus A310 for official trips.