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PIA plans to launch flights to Australia

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KARACHI: The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has planned to launch weekly flights to Australia, cutting travel time to and from the country by around one-third.

PIA intends to operate two weekly flights from Karachi and Lahore to Sydney at first. Later, PIA may also include Islamabad.

PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez says that if it (flights to Australia by a Pakistani carrier) happens, it would be happening for the first time ever.  He said that that PIA has conducted a feasibility study, which concluded that it would be beneficial to the airline.

Flights might commence in late March or early April, according to the national carrier, if all goes well. The airline, however, has yet to receive authorisation from the Australian aviation authority.

Direct flights would shorten a traveler’s duration to 12:30 hours and 13 hours, if one is going to Australia or coming to Pakistan respectively.

Because there are no direct flights between Pakistan and Australia, passengers must travel for 34 to 35 hours with stopovers, which adds to their travel time.

“Every airline must touch their hub before flying on to their destination,” stated Nadeem Sharif, Chairman of the Travel Agents Association of Pakistan (TAAP). “There may be eight-hour layovers or even overnight stays, which adds to the travel time.”

He added that, for example, if a person travelling to Australia via Qatar Airways from Pakistan, he or she must first fly to Doha, Qatar Airways’ hub, and then be carried to Australia from there. Similarly, when a person travels from Australia to Pakistan, the same thing happens.

PIA has worked out its plans and completed its internal work; nevertheless, whether or not it is allowed and given slots will be determined by the Australian aviation authorities.

IATA Consultancy, an international aviation agency, recently offered a business plan for PIA that, if adopted, would see the loss-making state-owned airline break even by 2025 and profit by 3.4 percent the following year.

The comprehensive business plan covers the period from 2022 to 2026.

The implementation of the plan would see PIA assets going up from the current $1.196 billion to $2.183 billion by 2026.

PIA reported a loss of Rs34.6 billion in the financial year 2020.

Experts see the losses to have increased significantly in FY2021 because of the pandemic and more importantly the chain of events that ensued following the fake pilot licenses scandal, which saw Pakistani pilots ineligible to fly to US and Europe.

PIA’s fleet is expected to grow from the current 29 to 49 by 2026, comprising 16 wide body, 27 narrow body and 6 turbo propeller aircraft. The PIA’s share price increased by 1.24 percent on Tuesday to Rs4.09.

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