History of PIA
Orient Airways was established on October 29, 1946. It was headquartered in Calcutta, British India. It was relocated to the newly independent state of Pakistan in 1947. The Pakistan International Airlines Company was founded after Orient Airways was nationalized (PIAC). In 1955, the new airline began international service to London via Cairo and Rome. With the introduction of the Boeing 707 into commercial operation on March 7, 1960, PIA became the first Asian airline to operate jet aircraft. Later in 1964, it became the first non-Communist airline to fly to China on Airbus A310.
PIA became the first customer of the Boeing 777-200LR in 2004. On November 10, 2005, the Boeing 777-200LR completed the world’s longest commercial airliner nonstop flight. On the eastbound route between Hong Kong and London, this flight lasted 22 hours and 22 minutes. The current fleet of PIA consists of a total of 26 aircraft. There are 11 Airbus A320-200, 3 ATR 42-500, and 12 variants of Boeing 777-200.
PIA A310s operations and retirement
PIA withdrew all of its Airbus A310-300s from service in January 2017. PIA leased four Boeing 737-800s from Pegasus Airlines as replacements. They were returned at the end of the lease term. The last two flights on A310 were from Lahore to Karachi on PK-307, and another one, AP-BGP, was from Muscat to Karachi on 31st Dec 2016. With this, PIA closed its A310 operations. Most of the A310s are getting rusted at Jinnah International Airport. One aircraft was sold to a museum in Germany. The A310s were operational on different international routes, including Beijing, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, and Saudi Arabia. The retirement of A310s has had a great impact on the frequency of operations.
PIA failed to replace its Airbus A310 fleet
In 2012, the board of directors of PIAC approved the fleet renewal plan. This plan involved the retirement of all old aircraft that included the iconic Boeing 747s and the A310s. The A310s were workhorses of the airline. Shujaat Azeem, aviation advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan at the time, suggested acquiring A330s on dry lease. This would have been favorable for the airline. However, PIA has always been in favor of Boeing aircraft. The pilots association was strongly against getting A330s. The stakeholders also considered it to be a strong paradigm shift for the airline. The decision of which aircraft should fill the void caused by retirements led to great disputes within the airline’s senior management. Boeing 777s were suggested instead of A330s. Mr. Azeem ended up rejecting A330s due to the pressure he faced from the union. Unfortunately, this decision led to a great loss in routes and the revenue generated, but this is how the airline has functioned as an organization. Decisions by the management are made under political influence rather than for economic stability.
Why were A330s a favorable replacement for retired A310s
Airbus started its A330s program back in the late 1980s. The aircraft was developed for long-haul flights on two engines. Similarly, Boeing developed its B777s for long-haul flights and that too on two engines. At the time, Airbus was leading the competition. However, B777s had an edge in terms of capacity. Although both A330s and B777s had similar passenger capacity, it is important to note that A330-200 was the largest variant and B777-200 was the smaller variant. Concerning the range of both aircraft, the A330 variants outranked any first-generation B777 variants. There is a significant difference in the price of both aircraft. According to reports, A330s provided more value for money than B777s, with an estimated difference of 100 million dollars. With the economic situation of the country, Mr. Azeem suggested a viable option. PIA’s high time recognizes the contribution it can make to the nation’s economic stability if the political influence is not given unfavorable weightage.