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Pakistan International Airlines Corporation, more commonly known as PIA ( ), is the flag carrier airline of Pakistanmarker. It is the 31st largest airline in Asia, operating scheduled services to 23 domestic destinations and 36 international destinations in 25 countries across Asia, Europe and North America. Its main bases are Karachimarker, Lahoremarker and Islamabad/Rawalpindimarker.

The airline's secondary bases include Peshawarmarker, Faisalabadmarker, Quettamarker and Multanmarker, 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 employed 18,043 people as of May 2008.


'Pakistan International Airlines', or 'PIA' for short, can trace its beginnings to the days when Pakistan 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 industrialist Mirza Ahmad Ispahani to develop a flag carrier for the nation. Meanwhile, an airline called 'Orient Airways', registered in Calcuttamarker, was formed on 23 October 1946. In February 1947, the airline brought three DC-3 airplanes from a company in Texasmarker, and in May of that year the airline was granted a licence to fly. Services were started in June from Kolkata to Sittwemarker and Yangonmarker. 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 Karachimarker, where it began flights to Dhakamarker on June 7, 1954. In addition, the first two domestic routes in Pakistan were established, from Karachi to Lahoremarker to Peshawarmarker, and from Karachi to Quettamarker to Lahore.

The Government of Pakistan, realizing the operation was failing economically, proposed that Orient Airways merge into a new national airline. On 11 March 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 Airportmarker via Cairo International Airportmarker and Leonardo da Vinci Airportmarker in Fiumicino, Italymarker, 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 use jet aircraft 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 Airportmarker in New York Citymarker. In 1962, orders were placed for Boeing 720s, Fokker F27s and Sikorsky helicopters. One of PIA's 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 senior Captain Abdullah Baig, a record unbroken to this day. During 1962, services to East Pakistan (now Bangladeshmarker) were proving to be difficult, therefore PIA placed their Sikorsky S-61 helicopters on these routes until 1966 when conditions improved. In 1964 PIA became the first airline from a non-communist country to fly to the People's Republic of Chinamarker. 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 Libyamarker and an agreement was signed with Yugoslavmarker airline JAT. In 1973, McDonnell Douglas DC-10s arrived and were used by the airline before they were replaced by Boeing 747-200Bs. In 1974 air freight services started, as well as a cargo service to New York City under the name, 'Pakistan International Cargo'. In 1975, PIA introduced new uniforms for air hostesses. These uniforms were chosen through an open competition, the winning entry was a design by Sir Hardy Amies who was designer to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1976, leased Boeing 747-200Bs came into service. In 1978, the airline bought their first Boeing 747-200BM aircraft. Also in 1978 the airline provided help to Somali Airlines, Air Malta and Yemenia and established a hotel management service in the United Arab Emiratesmarker. PIA 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 lower 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 Malémarker and to Toronto Pearson International Airportmarker, respectively. In 1989, the first women pilots started their career on passenger airplanes.

During June 1991, PIA received the first of six Airbus A310-300 aircraft on from Airbus Industrie. In 1992, flights started to Tashkentmarker and in 1993, to Zürich, Switzerlandmarker. In addition, PIA became a user of the Sabre, Galileo and Amadeus global distribution systems. During 1994, PIA added Jakartamarker, Fujairahmarker, Bakumarker and Al-Ainmarker to its destinations. Air Safari flights were launched in the same year using Boeing 737-300 aircraft over the Karakorammarker 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 Beirutmarker.

PIA only used the Tupolev Tu-154 for a short time to deal with the demand during the summer of 1996. In 1999, PIA leased five Boeing 747-300 aircraft from Cathay Pacific to replace its aging Boeing 747-200M 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 it 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 777-200ER (Extended Range), two 777-200LR (Longer Range) and three 777-300ER 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 Airshowmarker during 2005.

During 2004, PIA took delivery of its first Boeing 777-200ER aircraft in January. On delivery of the first three Boeing 777-200ERs 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 3 November 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 777-200ER 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 25 February 2006 Boeing delivered its first 777-200LR Worldliner to PIA, where it flew from Everettmarker to Islamabad via Manchestermarker, Englandmarker. PIA started non-stop flights from Torontomarker to Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore from 3 March 2006 taking advantage of Boeing 777-200LR's long range capability. PIA planned non-stop flights to New York Citymarker and other US cities with sizable Pakistani population centres, but was not given permission due to security reasons. On 31 May 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 5 March 2007, the European Commissionmarker, following an on-site visit , banned all but eight planes of PIA's 44-plane fleet from flying to Europe citing safety concerns. PIA was included in the List of air carriers banned in the European Union. The remaining eight, namely the fleet of Boeing 777s, has been exempted from the ban. PIA claims that this is discriminatory and the bans are not justifiable. On 26 March 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 from the 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 747-300s and six Airbus A310-300s. . On November 29, 2007, The EU completely lifted the ban on PIA.. In the same year, PIA signed a lease deal for seven new Airbus A320-200 from Kuwait based leasing company ALAFCO, the factory built aircraft were to be delivered between 2009 and 2010, however the deal however was cancelled in 2008 due to various factors.

During April 2009, the management decided to launch a long-term ‘Business Plan of PIA’ including purchase of new aircraft with details of the plan being finalised. According to sources, proposals for the purchase of new aircraft are under consideration and will only be confirmed after approval by the competent authority.


PIA is owned by the government of Pakistan. In the late 1990s, the Government of Pakistan considered selling the airline to the private sector due to the persistent losses suffered by the airline. The Government announced the privatisation plans but they were never implemented. Several steps towards outsourcing of non-core business have been initiated. Catering units (starting with Karachi Flight Kitchen), ground handling (starting with ramp services) and engineering, are to be gradually carved out of the airline and operated as independent companies. During 1997, Pakistan called in a team from International Finance (IFC), the consulting arm of the World Bank, to advise on restructuring and privatisation of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) however no agreement was reached. The government has many times planned the privatization of the State owned. however as of yet no reasonable agreement or solution has been found. On February 18, 2009 the carrier was dropped from the privatisation list.

Financial performance

The profitability of PIA as published in the 2008 annual report by Pakistan International Airlines Corporation with figures in millions of Pakistani Rupees. The following table suggests the key financial results for the end of year period of the financial year. PIA explains that the loss was caused by two key exogenous factors that caused the continued loss in PIA's profitability: the weakening of the Pakistani rupee and the rise in crude oil prices during 2008.

Operating Performance
Year Revenues Rs Millions Profit/(Loss) Rs Millions
2008 89,202 (35,880)
2007 70,481 (13,339)
2006 70,587 (12,763)
2005 64,074 (4,412)
2004 57,770 2,307
2003 47,788 1,299



PIA have code share agreements with the following carriers at August 2009 :

^ Sky Team member
^^ Star Alliance member

Passenger operations

PIA offers a three class configuration on its domestic routes which include Business Plus, Economy Plus and Economy. However on their international flights a two class configuration, Business Plus and Economy, has remained popular. According to the Annual Report 2007, PIA recorded a seat factor of 69%, a percentage drop from 2006. PIA Business Plus passengers are offered flat bed seats on all Boeing 777 as well as select Airbus A310 aircraft. Newspapers and magazines are available to all Business Plus and Economy Plus class passengers on PIA flights. Free newspapers are also provided to all Economy class passengers. The PIA in-flight magazine, Humsafar (Urdu for "travel companion"), is provided to all passengers on all international flights. Humsafar was introduced on PIA flights in 1980 and is printed and published in-house on a bi-monthly basis. PIA Awards Plus+ is the frequent flyer programme. The programme allows passengers to get free tickets, excess baggage vouchers, cabin upgrades, and a variety of rewards, special deals, and discounts with programme participants. Awards Plus+ offers three tiers of membership to frequent flyers - Emerald, Sapphire and Diamond. Awards Plus+ miles can be earned by flying PIA, and by using the products and services of PIA's partners. PIA Catering are the main suppliers of meals for the airline. They can produce 15,000 passenger meals each day. However since 2006, the management control of the flight kitchens has been given to Singapore Air Terminal Services (SATS). PIA Catering also provide special meals to allow for passengers' dietary and religious needs.


Pakistan International Airlines fleet includes the following aircraft (as of November 2009):

Pakistan International Airlines
Aircraft Total Passengers
(Business/Economy Plus/Economy)
Airbus A310-300 12 184 (12/40/132)
205 (18/43/144)
205 (18/45/142)

ATR 42 7 48 (0/8/40)
Boeing 737-300 6 118 (0/24/94)
119 (0/27/92)
Boeing 747-200 1 468 (0/0/468)
Boeing 747-300 5 468 (0/20/448)
Boeing 777-200ER 4 320 (35/45/240)
329 (35/54/240)
Boeing 777-200LR 2 310 (35/60/215)
Boeing 777-300ER 3 393 (35/54/304)
Total 40

Fleet orders

In May 2009, PIA tendered for short term, wet lease, of three Boeing 737-300 aircraft, to be added to the fleet from July .

During June 2009, PIA entered final discussions with Airbus and Boeing at the Paris Air Showmarker for a new order of 27 narrow body A320 or 737 family aircraft, for the airline .


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. The livery was white at the front and beige at the rear separated by a dark green stripe. The tail was painted white with PIA written in dark green. PAKISTAN was added to the front fuselage and the engines where painted beige. The PIA written in calligraphic urdu was added just behind the cockpit. However, due to negative critisism the design was modified before the first Boeing 777 was delivered. PIA and Boeing decided to replace the tail with a flowing Pakistan flag on a beige background. PAKISTAN titles were removed and the PIA acronym was enlarged and moved onto the fuselage. The engines and urdu PIA remained the same. The leased A310s and most of PIA fleet also adopted this livery at a later date.

The return of the flag tail saw then end of the provincial special schemes since their maintenance was too costly.

In early 2006 the airline launched four new tail designs for its fleet. The tails represented the four provinces of Pakistan: Sindhmarker, Punjabmarker, North-West Frontier Provincemarker and Balochistanmarker.. 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. The "Frontier" tail represented the "Phulkari" (flowering) pattern that reflected a rich and colourful tradition of embroidery generally done on shawls, shirts and linen. The "Punjab" tail was loosely related to the exquisite tile decoration of the Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore. The "Balochistan" tail was striking and colourful reflection of robust creativity 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.

In 2008 management stopped the application of provincial tails deeming them too costly and decided to restore the flag tail design introduced on the first Boeing 777 in 2003. Since April 2009, A310s (AP-BEB and BEU) have been repainted with the flag, it is not known wether remaining fleet with get them, as some aircraft are carrying on with province designs, despite having undergone heavy maintanence where the entire aircraft is repainted.

Cargo operations

PIA also operates an extensive cargo delivery system within Pakistan. During the early 1970s, PIA operated a service called "Air Express" that delivered documents and parcels from one airport to another. Pakistan International Cargo was started in 1974 using two Boeing 707-320C, with services to the Middle East and Europe. The operations ended in the late 1990s when both aircraft were grounded. PIA Cargo transports a range of goods across Pakistan as well as to international destinations. These include meat and vegetables, textiles, paper products and laboratory equipment.

In 2003 PIA launched "'PIA Speedex'", a courier service in 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 chartered through MNG Airlines to Haanmarker and Lutonmarker; initially these also operated to Amsterdammarker, Baselmarker and Cologne.

Marketing and sponsorships

  • Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) supports a first-class cricket team that plays in the ABN AMRO Patron's Trophy in Pakistan.
  • PIA is also sponsoring the Pakistani team for the A1 Grand Prix.
  • PIA also promotes the Shandur Polo Gala, that takes place every year in the Chitral and Gilgit regions of northern Pakistan during the summer period.
  • PIA is one of the official sponsors of the "Destination Pakistan 2007" festivals.
  • PIA also has its own Boy Scouts Association (PIA-BSA) working in partnership with Pakistan Boy Scouts Association. After the earthquake, PIA-BSA was working in partnership with other charity organisations to provide relief help.
  • PIA Planetariums located in Karachimarker and Lahoremarker are owned by PIA, which enable the public to see static aircraft as well as astronomy shows.
  • PIA Horticulture, set up in 1996, provides flowers for display in PIA's offices and for a range of events, winning several awards and accolades at flower exhibitions across the country.
  • PIA also supports non-profit organisations within Pakistan such as; Al-Shifa Trust, Zindagi Trust, The Citizens Foundation and Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT).
  • PIA teamed up with the fast-food francise, McDonalds, to offer passengers discounts on meals and upgrades.

Achievements and recognitions

PIA were the first Asian airline to receive the Boeing 737-300

  • First airline from an Asian country to fly the Super Constellation.
  • First Asian airline to operate a jet aircraft.
  • First Asian airline to be granted maintenance approval by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Air Registration Board, predecessor of the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
  • First non-communist airline to fly to the People's Republic of Chinamarker, and operate a service between Asia and Europe via Moscowmarker.
  • First airline in Asia to induct the new technology Boeing 737-300 aircraft.
  • First airline in the world to operate scheduled helicopter services.
  • First airline to show in-flight movies on international routes.
  • The first airline in South Asia to introduce auto-ticketing facility.
  • The first airline in the world to fly to Tashkentmarker, capital of the newly independent state of Uzbekistanmarker.
  • First Asian airline to start flights to Oslomarker, the capital city of Norwaymarker.
  • First airline in the world to take delivery of the Boeing 777-200LR Worldliner (Longer Range Variant).
  • Pakistan International Airlines Flight Services Department was awarded the ISO 9001:2000 certification award during May 2006.
  • First airline in Pakistan to operate a flight with an all female crew at command and in the cabin.
  • First airline in the world to operate the Boeing 777-200ER, 777-200LR and 777-300ER altogether - all the three variants available on the market at the time.
  • PIA Flight Kitchens in Karachi were awarded the HACCP Certification.
  • PIA was given three awards in 2008: The "Brands of the Year" Award, "Consumers Choice Award" and "One The Best Airlines Award (Cargo)".

Special operations

Charter services

PIA operates private charter flights using ATR 42s to Kadanwarimarker and Sewan Sharif gas field in Sindhmarker as well as to other parts of the country on behalf of oil and gas companies. Ad hoc charters for United Nations peacekeeping troops are also carried out to Africa and Eastern Europe using Boeing 747s.

Hajj and Umrah operations

PIA operates a two-month (pre- and post-) Hajj operation each year to and from Jeddahmarker and sometimes Madinahmarker in Saudi Arabiamarker. PIA transports over 130,000 intending pilgrims each year from Karachimarker, Lahoremarker, Islamabadmarker, Peshawarmarker, Quettamarker, Faisalabadmarker, Multanmarker, and Sukkurmarker to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabiamarker. 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.

State Officials transportation

PIA has been continuously serving government officials of Pakistan, mainly President of Pakistan and Prime Minister of Pakistan. Military and Judicial personnels also enjoy huge discounts on PIA flights. PIA has always transported the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan on overseas visits. During the late 1990s, a PIA Boeing 737-300 was used for official visits by the Bhutto and Sharif governments. The aircraft wore official government colours but was later repainted in the airline official colours at the end of the decade. 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 uses the airline's Boeing 737 or Airbus A310 for official trips.

Incidents and accidents

Since it began services, seven Pakistan International Airlines flights have crashed. PIA has a record of 5.00 fatalities per million flights.
The memorial tablet placed at the crash site in Cairo for those who died on PIA Flight 705 on May 20 1965.

  • In March 1981 a PIA jet was hijacked to Kabul.

  • PIA Flight 544 was the flight number of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Fokker F27 that was hijacked on 25 May 1998. All passengers and crew escaped unhurt during the incident.

See also


  1. " Contact Us." Pakistan International Airlines. Retrieved on 4 August 2009.
  2. The Evolution of The Pakistan Army By Brig. (Ret.) Noor A. Husain
  3. Aircraft Losses In Pakistan -1971 War (PAF, Army Aviation, and Civilian aircraft Casualties) - by P V S Jagan Mohan
  4. PIA in the old days History of PIA, assessed 03-02-2009
  5. EC inspects CAA operation
  6. Restrictions force PIA to suspend Frankfurt flight
  7. E.U. to ban PIA
  8. EU banes Pakistan airline flights - BBC News - Obtained March 5, 2007.
  9. Pakstrategy: EU Lifts ban on Eleven PIA Planes
  10. EU Lifts ban on PIA Brecorder Newspapers, Accessed December 1, 2007
  11. Long-term ‘Business Plan of PIA’ being finalised Daily News, Released on 2009-04-29. Accessed 2009-04-30
  12. PIA privatisation Flight International Magazine, printed 01-01-1997, assessed 09-03-2009
  13. Pak Steel, PIA dropped from privatisation list The News, Jang Newspapers Published 18-02-2009, assessed 09-03-2009
  14. PIA moves towards Global Alliances Pakistan International Airlines Press Release, assessed 03-04-2007
  15. PIA Annual Report 2006-2007
  16. About PIA - Flight Kitchens
  17. PIA website: About Fleet, [1], [2]
  20. PIA launches four new tails
  21. PIA - Cargo
  22. Enjoy the spectacular shandur Polo Gala 2007-07-07
  23. PIA: Make Pakistan Your Next Destination, 2007
  24. Corporate Social Responsibility within PIA
  25. PIA & McDonalds Alliance Deal for Ramadan
  26. - Select "current model series" option, then select "777-200LR" from the drop-down menu to view report for all 777-200LR deliveries.
  27. PIA’s Flight Kitchen Karachi Awarded HACCP Certification
  28. PIA Annual Report 2008-2009 PIA Press Releases, Accessed 2009-05-02
  29. "AP-BEH" PIA B737 in Government Colours
  30. Pakistan Air Force A310-304

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