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Wednesday, February 28, 2024  
17 Shaban 1445  

Pakistan flag carrier PIA struggling to pay bills

Spokesman says company is seeking urgent financial help from treasury
A Pakistan International Airline plane taxis on the runway. AFP/File
A Pakistan International Airline plane taxis on the runway. AFP/File

Pakistan’s national flag carrier admitted Friday it was struggling to pay bills and wages after local media reports said the fleet may be grounded within days.

Abdullah Hafeez, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), said the company was seeking urgent financial help from the treasury, but had secured funds “for the time being”.

“But we do struggle due to balance sheet challenges,” he said.

“That is why PIA is seeking balance sheet restructuring support from the owners.”

Decades of mismanagement and instability have hobbled Pakistan’s economy, and this year Islamabad was forced into a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avert default.

State-run enterprises in particular – long accused of being bloated and poorly run – have found funds drying up as the government struggles with a balance of payments crisis caused by crippling debt repayments.

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Hafeez said three flights were grounded Thursday and that salaries had been paid late.

Twenty-five aircraft from a fleet of 31 were still flying, with the others grounded for scheduled or unscheduled maintenance, he said.

Local television channel Geo News this week reported that the airline was on the verge of collapse and flight operations could be suspended in days if emergency funds were not provided.

Bloomberg reported that PIA had liabilities of Rs743 billion (around $2.5 billion), exceeding its total assets by five times.

PIA came into being in 1955 when the government nationalised a loss-making commercial airline, and enjoyed rapid growth until the 1990s.

The liberalisation of the market and launch of several private and publicly owned airlines put enormous pressure on PIA, resulting in years of lossmaking.

The airline’s reputation was also battered by a series of strikes, hijackings and accidents – including the crash of an Airbus in Karachi in May 2020 that killed 97 passengers and crew.

The government has plans to sell part or all the airline, but has so far not acted on a least two proposals put forward for privatisation by special committees.

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