Pakistan’s Business Class Product Just Got A HUGE Upgrade

Filed Under: Other Airlines

As many of you may know, I recently flew Pakistan International Airlines business class from Manchester to New York, which was a fascinating flight. The crew was extremely friendly, while every other aspect of the product was pretty underwhelming.

PIA-Business-Class-777 - 1

The interior sort of felt like it was falling apart, as the seats were wobbly, and many of the controls didn’t work. The crew even made a scripted announcement after takeoff apologizing in the event that the seats and entertainment don’t work, indicating that Pakistan was in the process of refreshing their fleet.

PIA-Business-Class-777 - 3

I have heard from several sources that the airline is trying to improve, and has a plan to refresh their aging fleet (in this case the 777s are hardly “aged,” but rather they just haven’t been maintaining them properly).

While not a permanent solution, PIA is leasing A330-300s from SriLankan, which translates into a huge product improvement for both business class and economy class. This is the same type of excellent A330-300 I flew on SriLankan last year between Colombo and Male, which features reverse herringbone seats in business class.


SriLankan has huge debts and is continuing to suffer big losses. So while they only recently acquired these A330-300s themselves, they’re better off leasing them even just at a breakeven cost, rather than flying them and incurring losses. Per Reuters:

Sri Lanka’s cash-strapped national airline is in talks to lease four of its Airbus A330 planes to Pakistan International Airlines Corp, a government minister said on Thursday, months after cancelling an order for four Airbus A350 aircraft.

“A team from the airline is in Pakistan for negotiations. We will lease one A330, latest next month, on wet lease,” Kabir Hashim, Minister of Public Enterprise Development, told reporters in Colombo. A wet lease refers to when one airline provides an aircraft, crew and maintenance to another.

Hashim also said SriLankan would lease three more A330s “in the next few months”, but did not discuss the type of lease.

Hashim said the airline paid around $450,000 dollars a month to lease each A330 and was looking to lease the aircraft to the Pakistani carrier “even at a break even” level.

Per PIA’s spokesperson, here’s a picture of the new A330 fresh out of the paint shop, and it’s being called “Pakistan Premier:”

As you can see, they’re not just introducing new seats, but also “better trained crew with new uniforms:”

In case anyone wants to try PIA’s new A330, it will begin flying between Pakistan and London Heathrow next week, and as they take delivery of more A330s, the new product should be added to more routes. Unfortunately I doubt it will fly to the US, since an A330 can’t easily fly nonstop from New York to Pakistan (the stop in Manchester is only on the westbound flight).

Congrats to Pakistan on these new planes. Given their excellent business class fares in many cases, this could be a fun option if traveling between the Middle East and Europe (though I’m not sure what the transit experience is like in Islamabad and Lahore).

  1. For a gay guy, you sure do enjoy giving money to people and countries that hate your existence, I don’t understand how your conscience allows you to continue to support businesses that prop up oppressive, hateful regimes. Oh but I guess boycotting chick fil a is good enough, right?

  2. @ Justin — I’m not sure that’s completely true. According to Airbus, the range of the A330-300 with a full payload is 6,350 nautical miles (~7,300 miles), while New York to Lahore is 7,067 miles. So it’s right at the operating limit, and with some sort of a payload restriction, it would be feasible. That’s why I said it can’t “easily” fly between New York and Pakistan, since it couldn’t be done with a full payload.

  3. @WR – maybe get a little more educated on this. Pakistan is nowhere near as bad as places such as Uganda. I’ve lived in the UAE as a gay man, and had no troubles there. I socialized with many members of the highest levels of the royal family and they all accept homosexuality/ don’t condemn it. laws on the books are one thing, enforcement is another. It wasn’t too long ago that the US had many of the same types of laws/ fears/ stereotypes, etc. Things only change if you interact with people/ and normalize things that seem different. No difference here, and things will change with time.

  4. How are Srilankan going to manage if they lease out 4 x A330-300 to Pakistan ? They have been flying the A333 to LHR/NRT/JED/MLE I wonder how will they make do with less aircraft in their fleet.

    Srilankan is my second favourite airline after Emirates as they offer excellent connections from where I live at a competitive price. Sad to know they are bleeding.

  5. @SS
    UL is cutting CMB to FRA and CDG routes starting end of October beginning of November.
    That should make some room

  6. why transit in Lahore when you can spend a few days here! But I know many people who transfer onto Beijing etc after arriving here, the airport is a bit small but you should def check out the route! You can review the a330 and the 777/a310!

  7. @Jason I need to get educated? It’s always lovely to start of a retort with a condescending remark. I’m overeducated if anything, thank you very much. You seem to want to make excuses, saying “not as bad as Uganda”. Way to set the bar high there! If the highest level of the royal family is so accepting of homosexuality, then why don’t they get the laws of the books? Do you really want to leave it to the whim of an individual whether a law is enforced or not? Do you not truly believe that the majority of people who live there agree with the law on the books?

    Look, I’m not gay, I’m an evil straight white male. However, if there was a country that has laws on the books that all white people must wear a dunce hat while in public, then guess what? I’m not going to that country, even if the law is not strictly enforced all of the time. But hey, If you enjoy having to hide who you are, and living in fear of the powers that be changing their mind on enforcement on a whim, and feeling like a second class citizen, and enjoy having to temporarily disregard your principles and ideals, then good luck to you. However, throwing money at such regimes just encourages them to never change.

  8. I like donuts! Oh wait – we are not talking about donuts? Damn, what was the original topic of the article?

  9. @WR
    I never hid who I was nor did anybody else I know when living in the UAE. It was definitely one of the most enlighthening and culturally enriching places I’ve ever lived and worked. My partner lived there with me and would always attend work events (team dinners, etc) with me. Everybody on the team, including the locals, knew who he was and what our relationship was. Furthermore, my company that I went to work for, which is a local company, fully knew who he was and found a job for him as well and sponsored his visa. And this was a pretty common occurrence throughout the company, for many people. . So no, just because laws are one way doesn’t mean that it’s the way it is. Laws on the books in the US have been pretty draconian on many things until recently, but things change. Clearly, you don’t seem to understand that. Nor do you understand that by just looking a little below the surface things can be really different from the way you arrogantly believe them to be.

  10. Interesting comments by @WR and @Jason. Just a disclosure. I am originally from Pakistan and a “straight” male. We had a student while in college in Peshawar, a city in northwest of Pakistan with the most conservative culture that you will find in the country. He became a she after declaring herself as a transgender. This was 1980s when life was pretty rough for transgender folks in America. I did not see anyone bullying her, and in fact no one objected when she used the women’s bathroom and female section of the cafeteria. Sorry for jumping in, but had to post these comments to educate others.

  11. @AS if you aim to “educate others” then don’t waste your time, they never learn.

    I miss the good old days when OMAAT was a travel blog.

  12. Hey Kent – I like donuts too and appreciate your efforts to lighten the mood here :0 Since when has OMAAT become a venue for political/racial/religious/societal/ethnic/cultural banter (sorry…I couldn’t come up any more intelligent socio terms).

    I love Pakistan. I love the USA. I have lovely friends and have met lovely people from both countries!

  13. On a different and more relevant note – is it me or do I see that PIA got rid of the three stripes long the length of the fuselage and off-white section at the rear? I thought that made the aircraft look very pretty but now it just looks like chalk. I must say Pakistani women are very attractive – not just based on the pic posted above but also my friends from Pakistan.

  14. @Samantha Wait till the Saudia review comes out, you’ll feel like you’re in a Trump rally!

    It’s unfortunate that nothing is being done to stop it.

  15. @Samantha – yes they did due to timing (and cost) pressures. I was in CMB for the qualification flight before the official hand-off to PIA. Their idea was to go after the chic look similar to Swiss, BA, etc.

  16. @lucky Perhaps I should’ve qualified my response with “legally” … I think the payload restrictions to get to a point where they could have the minimum required buffer would be quite high. Not to mention the fact that the great circle route you’re talking about is a polar route which I’m not sure the 330-300 has the ETOPS certification for?

    So sure… a 330-300 VIP configuration not subject to passenger airline rules could probably make the trip, but that’s not really what we’re talking about is it?

  17. @Lucky – Transit in Islamabad isn’t too good. The airport is a temporary solution until the New airport opens in December 2017. The current airport is an Air Force Bace. It has no gates (only remote stands) and immigration is a nightmare when entering the country. Though the shops and restaurants in the waiting area are amazing and big.

  18. @W; the new Islamabad airport won’t open atleast until August 2018. Its been under construction for around 10 years and still going. 🙂 Lets see what CAA does to wrap it up. I visited the entire terminal and site in mid-Jan 2018 courtesy of the CAA. Its quite impressive for a country as poor as Pakistan.

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