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Wednesday, February 28, 2024  
17 Shaban 1445  

Pakistan hopes to resume PIA flights to UK in three months: Rafique

Minister says Islamabad International Airport will be outsourced for 15 years
PIA spokesman Abdullah H Khan said the national carrier was looking forward to the resumption of the UK route. Reuters/File
PIA spokesman Abdullah H Khan said the national carrier was looking forward to the resumption of the UK route. Reuters/File

Pakistan International Airlines is likely to resume flights to Britain in the next three months, Aviation Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said on Friday, after services were suspended following a fake pilot scandal.

Rafique told parliament that new legislation this week has removed the final hurdle for Pakistan’s national carrier to fly to the United Kingdom.

He gave no details about the legislation or why it was required to resume the flights. He said the resumption of services to Britain did not include other European destinations.

“God willing, the PIA flights will resume at least to the UK in three months, and, later, flights to Europe and America will resume,” he said.

PIA flights to Europe and the UK were suspended after the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) revoked the national carrier’s authorisation to fly to the bloc in 2020 following a fake pilot licence scandal in the South Asian nation.

The issue resulted in the grounding of 262 of Pakistan’s 860 pilots, including 141 of PIA’s 434.

PIA spokesman Abdullah H Khan said the national carrier was looking forward to the resumption of the UK route. “The UK and Europe contribute to 37% of our total revenue,” he said.

Rafique said the national airline had incurred losses as a result of the fake licence issue. He said it will need to be restructured and required billions of dollars in investment to avoid closure.

He also said the government plans to outsource the country’s airport operations, starting with Islamabad airport, and followed by operations at Karachi and Lahore airports.

Islamabad airport ‘will hopefully’ be outsourced for 15 years

Rafique told Parliament that the Islamabad International Airport would be outsourced for 15 years to improve its operational activities.

“Its navigational services and runway operations will not be outsourced,” he said in response to a calling attention notice in the NA sponsored by MMA lawmaker Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali regarding the outsourcing of the airport

The minister clarified that the move does not equate to privatisation and called for following “best practices” to bring the country’s airports at par with world standards.

He clarified that no employee would be sacked and they would have job security and benefits as per the law.

Rafique added that open competitive bidding would be ensured and the best bidder would be given the opportunity to operate the airport. The process, he said would be profit-oriented, ultimately benefiting the national exchequer.

“The International Finance Corporation will serve as the consultant, and already 12-13 companies have shown interest in participating in the bidding process,” he added. The minister assured that the process would be “transparent and adhered” to all rules and regulations.

The minister also stressed the need for restructuring the PIA to address its substantial deficit, which has reached Rs80 billion this year and was projected to increase to Rs259 billion by 2030 if not dealt with appropriately.

“If you did not restructure PIA, it will shut down in one to one and a half years. I am giving this statement responsibly,” Rafique said.

He also spoke about the future plans for PIA. The total liability of PIA amounts to Rs742 billion, with only 27 to 28 planes currently operational.

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Khwaja Saad Rafique

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