Pakistan Airlines anyone? Intriguing (and affordable) way to get from Chicago to Barcelona…

I’ve always been fascinated by “fifth freedom” and unconventional airline routes, like New York to Vancouver on Cathay Pacific, New York to Frankfurt on Singapore Airlines, London to Los Angeles on Air New Zealand, Singapore to London on Qantas, etc.

Anyway, starting June 5, 2013, Pakistan Airlines will offer twice weekly service between Chicago and Barcelona — what could be more fun? The service operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and after reading a trip report about Pakistan Airlines I’m actually kind of curious to try them.

Best of all per the Good Deal Premium Fares thread on FlyerTalk, the fares are extremely reasonable. Roundtrip business class — even in the peak of summer — is just $1,358 all-in.

And even more intriguing, to me at least, is that one way business class is just $769. While that’s a bit more than half of the roundtrip cost, most airlines charge at least the same for a one way international ticket as they do for a roundtrip.

I think I might just give them a try. For example I’ve wanted to fly Iberia’s new business class either to/from Europe, though not necessarily roundtrip. Rather than burning an extra 50,000 miles for the other direction I’d rather just pay to fly Pakistan Airlines. After all, surely that would make an interesting trip report?

Unfortunately best I can tell Pakistan Airlines doesn’t really partner with any useful airlines in terms of mileage accrual. But with those kinds of fares, who needs miles?

Filed Under: Advice, Great Deals
  1. Yeah, just skimmed that TR – the seats don’t look terrible. You should definitely book this.

  2. I’ve flown that aircraft from London to Lahore (not sure if they still fly this route) and its really not too bad. The service and food was quite good in fact.

  3. I would avoid PIA. They’re an accident waiting to happen. Lack of maintenance and most crucially lack of financing means have forced them to ground half of their fleet. Not enough cash to buy new spare parts…
    Source: a Norwegian blog (PIA flies to OSL, and this blog guy works there. He follows them closely)

  4. Let me tell you about my experience with PIA, which I flew many times but haven’t for years.

    Worst. Airline. Ever. The last flight I was on had the last five rows of the plane designated as the smoking area. No really, they did. On another flight, the lavatory at the back of the plane was not only broken, but leaking to the several rows in front of it. On another flight, the flight attendants walked through the cabin spraying air freshener because it smelled so bad (hmmmm, I wonder why?). Once at check-in, I told the PIA employee that I was going to Los Angeles, and the luggage tickets said my bags were going to LOS instead of LAX. Thankfully I caught it in time. What’s funnier is that PIA doesn’t even fly to LOS airport in Lagos!

    I haven’t flown them in 8+ years and you can see why. I’d run the other way!

  5. Oh and I forgot, one time I was flying to Lahore, Pakistan but the fog was so thick that that they had the plane routed to Islamabad. Except they made no announcement on the plane that they were doing so, and once we got to Islamabad they basically told us we were on our own. My options were to take a bus or buy a First Class ticket for the short flight, which is what I ended up doing. On that flight I was starving, so I ate the small sandwich they offered on the plane and became extremely sick.

    It’s not worth it!

  6. Hopefully it should be ok as long as your aircraft arrives. I have plenty of friends and family use this airline in Business and Economy and they go all the way to Lahore.

    I have heard generally more positive comments regarding them. The business products is something that is def note worthy. It would be interesting to the 777 product if you choose to fly with them!

  7. I flew them several years ago and it wasn’t good, a rattlebox of a plane. They supposedly buy planes from the US and elsewhere after we’re done with them. I vowed to never fly them again, and have kept my promise.

  8. I guarantee “JewJetting” won’t fly on this airline.
    Plus, they have the same wine selection as EgyptAir… Pass.


  9. @Maria Actually all of PIA’s Boeing 777 fleet were brought from Boeing directly. Please do not make statements without checking the facts! PIA has actually never bought any used planes from the US for a very long time now!

  10. @JRL Pakistan is an Islamic country. The airline follows the principles of the Quran and do not serve alcohol. Alcohol is also not served on Saudia, Iran Air, Kuwait Airways, Ariana Afgan and afew more.

  11. “PIA has actually never bought any used planes from the US for a very long time now!”

    Has never for a very long time…HA!

  12. @Bryan ok the word.. “Never” doesn’t really belong there but it has been a very long time since they bought used planes from the US?! Unless you want to prove me otherwise?

    @Coutureguy Yes I did get his point. I was adding to it. 🙂

  13. Would be cool to see you do some trip reports to more exotic places outside of your usual europe/asia trips. Maybe Africa, Latin America?

  14. AI has a similar setup (new 777s, great 5th freedom route C/F fares, hit or miss schedulesn ethnic travellers) but, lie flat seats, plenty of booze and you can earn RDMs on LH M&M. How about checking them out? BTW, PIA=please inform Allah (before departure) AI= Allah informed 😉

  15. Best 5th freedom flight I ever took was NRT-MNL on PIA back in 1991. What a hoot that was. Giant, empty 747, creaky as all get out. The NRT-MNL flight was the tag end of the East Asia PIA milk run that ran something like: KHI-SIN-HKG-MNL-NRT. LOL!

  16. I used to fly with PIA until the ME carriers took over the Lahore route. You just can not compare the two.

    Sadly PIA is heavily indebted due to the govt’s improper management of the airline. Whereas the Arab airlines have all the money from the oil so they can spend at their leisure. Pakistan is going through a rough patch so improving the airline is a constant struggle with more head of state changes over the last decade. i.e. more changes to Board of Directors!

    Flew PIA many times. It can be hit or miss – it will be pure luck to what you get. The J product is generally on the good side and with any foreigner onboard they do go the extra mile. The crew are friendly, talkative and love having their photographs taken. The food is very Pakistan/Indian stylied and is one of its famous selling points.

  17. I also have had many negative experiences on PIA, but some of their aircraft are quite modern. While I worked at Boeing, PIA was announced as the first airline to take the 777-200LR. They were also the first with the Jeppesen Flight Bag on board aircraft and other firsts as well. Granted this was many years ago, but the history & culture of PIA is to try & be the first airline to try new aircraft & technology. I would not hesitate to fly them on an international route where they use their most modern aircraft. I wasn’t into blogging when I traveled with them in the past, but will be ready with a camera next times do!

  18. “@JRL Pakistan is an Islamic country. The airline follows the principles of the Quran and do not serve alcohol.”

    It’s not they are an Islamic country, it’s that they are conservative. Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Malaysia, Turkisk, Royal Jordanian, and MEA are all Islamic countries (or at least Muslim majority) are there is no booze.

    Sam Chui’s TRs are nice to look at, but not very useful since he tends to love almost every flight. Plus, he’s more of an aviation nut and tends to focus on the planes themselves as much as what the airlines offer. Again, great pics, lovely to look at, but not useful if you are selecting a premium product.

  19. Also, Lucky, the TR shows the same plane flies from Paris to Frankfurt, which is a much better BC seat than what Euro airlines would offer…even if it is a short trip.

  20. NOTE:
    I know that the magazines and newspapers on the flight from Pakistan to the UK (Islamabad-Birmingham) are full of excrements. The reason is that for many religious believers on board, as soon as a woman has touched, i.e. seated herself on, the toilet it is off-limits for these men.
    Hence they go to the bathroom with a paper product and take a dump in it. Urin deposal is not a problem since you don’t need to touch the seat…

    This has been confirmed by airport personnel in BHX.

  21. Islam forbids strictly its followers from drinking anything alcoholic, let alone serving it. Although most Islamic dominated countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Brunei and Iran banned the serving of alcohols onboard the airlines, certain Islamic countries airlines do serve alcohols onboard. Examples EK, MH, GA and maybe a few others. They can serve alcohol onboard but provided the alcoholic drinks must be served by a NON-MUSLIM. Thanks

  22. Etihad, Qatar, Royal Jordanian, Syrian Air, Oman Air, and MEA also serve alcohol. So do Gulf Air, TunisAir, and Royal Air Maroc, I believe. And Turkish.

    I think more airlines from Islamic countries serve alcohol than those that do not. However, some, like RJ, Oman, and Gulf Air don’t always serve it on routes within the Arabian Gulf.

  23. @lucky You can save a further few hundred dollars if you search itamatrix… PIA fares under $900 for a roundtrip J class seat on ORD-BCN. However, you wont get this price on their website so guess a travel agent will have to do the booking!

  24. and PIA also has code sharing with Turkish, Thai and China Southern. Though you need to check if you can use their miles on PIA.

  25. @ Sohaib Shamim — Even with a travel agent I haven’t been able to price that, unfortunately.

  26. I fly PIA business class very often….the service is fine, the seats comfortable, and the food great! Given that you are paying for business class what you would for economy service on another airline, it is definitely worth it!

  27. I´m from Barcelona, but I´m living in Chicago, hat means that I have taken PIA to go Chicago Barcelona a lot of times, exactly 5 times, ans also all of my friends that ad come to visit me in Chicago, I have never had any problem with them. The workers are nice people, the plane is modern and comfortable, the food good and is cheap. I´m very happy that they are back, really!


    I flew PIA for the first time in August 2011. I was wary of what I was getting considering how cheap it was and not exactly a world renown airline. All went well on the flight I was fairly impressed.

    So I have been in Spain for a year now planning to return in June of this year (2013). I booked a flight in April for very cheap and thought everything was well until today, 3 weeks before my departure. They call me to tell me they have “suspended” the route from BCN-ORD and vice versa. They are telling me I have to send an email to resolve this and I have no idea what is going to happen. I have an unofficial connecting flight from Málaga to BCN the same morning so this is really screwing up my plans. I had heard from someone else who tried to book after I did that they had told them that all flights were suspended. I was a little worried so I checked my reservation and everything seemed copacetic, no changes and I had received no email or phone call, until today. I don’t know why it took them this long to call me and tell me my flight is going to be canceled. I have no idea what they’re going to do about the situation if anything. Please do not fly Pakistani!

  29. Same as Matt here

    we had 3 tickets bought for doing BCN-ORD round trip in August and I have received an e-mail this morning telling that “because of operative reasons” the flight has been cancelled.

    They are offering us to do BCN-CHI with Turkish Airlines, via Istanbul, or refunding us the cost of the tickets.

    Problem is that we had three connection tickets from Malaga to BCN already paid…

    I will have to check if they are going to refund us the Malaga-Barcelona tickets.

  30. They took a few days in sending me this email with the option of turkish airlines. Calling them is a total disaster,I’ve called about 10 times in the last 3 days trying to sort this out. I’ve been lucky as I’ve found a new flight with Iberia from Madrid which is more comfortable for me. I am assuming the connecting flight from Málaga to Barcelona is lost.

    They also told me that in order to change to another flight I would have to go in person to their office in Barcelona. That is not an option for me as I am in Jaén and it is not practical at all to go to Barcelona.

    To make matters worse, while waiting for the refund to be processed (and sending emails and calling because they are HORRIBLE about corresponding with you)I received an email this morning telling me that there are “technical problems” and that they cannot process my refund now and said that in the future they will return the money, without specifying when. So natually I called their toll free number only to be told to call barcelona and they would not tell me when they would return the money or what the supposed technical problem was. So I called Barcelona, to get directed to ANOTHER number in Barcelona and the lady on the phone told me to call back in half an hour. So I did, and the phone has been dead ever since.

    Fernando, who is your connecting flight with? Mine is with Vueling from Málaga to BCN June 5th, and I’m guessing they won’t pay for that flight. If they tell you something about that can you let me know?



  31. I purchased tickets for a trip to Barcelona in late June with PIA. I read that they were canceling all ORD-BCN flights online, so I called their Chicago office. I was very nervous that they would only refund my ticket, leaving me to buy much more expensive tickets now that it is close to my trip. Luckily, they arranged alternative tickets for me. I had to call them back to get them to email me my new itenerary, but I didn’t have any difficulty beyond that. I called the new airlines and they confirmed that they have me in their system. I am flying Iberia and American now.

  32. My family and I (4 of us) were booked on a flight in late June as well. I have yet to be contacted by PIA that our flights are cancelled and have been for about a month! I found out by accident when I decided to check to see how full the flight was. Were they ever going to contact me??? If they would have let me know in late April that they had suspended these routes, I would have had a chance to rebook somewhere else. As it stands now, flights are double what I paid and there will be no chance to get seats anywhere near each other. I have been in contact with PIA over the weekend, but no resolution yet. They keep trying to offer me a refund. I DON’T WANT A REFUND! I just want to get to Barcelona. This was to be a graduation gift for our two daughters. We are supposed to be leaving on a cruise out of Barcelona. Have paid for cruise, tours, hotels, transfers, etc. This was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime and it is quickly turning into a nightmare!

  33. Hi! I actually book one of this fares with PIA from BCN to Chicago and just got an email that all flights from/to Chicago have been canceled… did u buy it at the end? do they give alternatives? I’m trying to contact either Barcelona and Chicago’s offices but no one is answering the phone.

  34. One of the worst airline ever! I’m a Pakistani n I’m ashamed to say that I would never recommend this airline to any one. Anything is possible n all bets are off. This airline only serves Punjab province in Pakistan and that too pathetically. Total waste of money!

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