Pakistan Airlines Wants To Launch Nonstop US Flights

Filed Under: Other Airlines

In October 2017, Pakistan International Airlines stopped flying to New York, which was their only destination in the US at the time. The airline had flown to the US for over 50 years, and over time flew to New York, Chicago, and Houston.

The airline was allegedly losing about 12 million USD per year flying to the US, and that’s in spite of the fact that the route only operated twice per week. PIA was no doubt at a disadvantage in many ways:

  • Their onboard product was outdated, with angled seats in business class
  • The airline wasn’t able to operate nonstop flights to the US due to safety reasons, so the flight had to fly from Pakistan to Manchester to New York, with passengers being rescreened in Manchester
  • Fares on the “big three” Gulf carriers are often quite reasonable between Pakistan and the US, so the yields weren’t great

I had the chance to fly from Manchester to New York in PIA business class, and had an interesting flight.

PIA’s 777 business class

The thing about “national airlines” flying to New York is that while it’s something that is often done for prestige, in reality it’s rarely a money maker. For example, last year Kenya Airways started flying to New York, which they described as a “game changer.” Just a few months after launching the route, Kenya Airways’ CEO said “there is nothing lucrative about flying to New York.”

And that brings us back to Pakistan Airlines…

This March, PIA announced their intentions to once again offer service to the US. This time they want to fly nonstop, though, as they said that operating via any third point makes the flight economics unviable.

The company’s CEO pointed out that they’ve improved greatly when it comes to safety, and with the opening of the new Islamabad Airport, a lot more aviation authorities have faith in the safety of the airport. For example, British Airways is even resuming flights to Islamabad.

Anyway, PIA asked for the help of the US in facilitating these flights, and it looks like that’s one step closer to being a reality. It’s now being reported that representatives from the US Transportation Security Administration will be in Islamabad on July 17 & 18 to audit the airport, in hopes of getting approval for nonstop flights to the US.

Bottom line

It’s great to see the positive impacts of the new Islamabad Airport, in particular with British Airways launching flights there. While I hope that Pakistan is successful with their security audits, I still think there’s little merit to nonstop flights to the US.

Sure, there’s demand, but most of it is fairly low yield. Operating a flight this long with an outdated 777 just doesn’t seem like a recipe for making money.

Do you think PIA will follow through with nonstop flights to the US, should they get clearance from the US?

  1. Khi/lax flights also needed for seniors with good Pakistani style food AND slim stewards and air hostess who should be very polite for business purposes. Thanks.

  2. The key is family travel by the huge Pakistani diaspora in the U.S., not business travel, in my opinion. To facilitate that, since the logical customer base is dispersed, PIA would need some sort of agreement with a U.S. airline to provide feed to New York, if they want to compete at all with the Gulf carriers that do offer multiple North American gateways with one connection to Pakistan.

  3. Still waiting for them to paint one of their planes in the new livery they released over a year ago!

  4. I can’t imagine there is much business travel between Pakistan and the United States. Maybe arms dealers and defense contractors, but even then. I just can’t imagine they can fill a daily flight, especially without an investment in the business-class product.

  5. The market for this flight is VFR. There isn’t a lot of business traffic between the US and Pakistan and any government traffic on the US origin is nothing something I think the US government will work with PIA on. This is a prestige route and little else.

  6. This could be successful only if the the flights are direct to and from Pakistan AND if the flight service greatly greatly improves AND the frequency is at least four times a week. Only then will PIA have caught upto its modern competitors like Etihad, Turkish or Emirates, to whom it has lost so much Pakistani diaspora business. However despite any improvements I do agree with the posters that this is basically a prestige route and most likely will be a money loser white-elephant PIA.

  7. A couple of years back I was on a full Pak Air flight for a 2 hour ish trip and the toilets were a mess. 15 hours? No thanks.

  8. To make this route work, they need to target Pakistani expats living in the US. They need to market their nonstop flight along with national pride but must have a really compelling product. Most expats have a terrible view of PIA and most would never fly them unless needed.

    I myself am one of them and a week ago Thai Airways canceled all flights to Islamabad for 2 weeks due to the US-Iran thing (which includes my flight this weekend). Now they will only fly me to Karachi and I have to find my own way to ISB.

    To make this work, they really need to prove they turned around. I doubt just Pakistan’s population can make this route work.

  9. Why is 777 considered so outdated? Emirates still flies them everyday for their non-stop SEA-DXB route, although they use A380 for their JFK, BOS and LAX routes.

  10. It will work but PIA need to upgrade the fleet if the service and punctuality is kept in mi d you can’t miss the slot times or paying delayed departure penalties and concentration on cargo utilising maximum payload.

  11. I flew in and out of Islamabad airport this past March. From a passengers perspective it is clean, streamlined, efficient, secure and obviously under-utilized.

    In fact upon my return to NYC I was startled to compare the new Islamabad airport to the borderline rundown, overused and chaotic feel of US airports.

    Of course the US airports are older and handle an overwhelming higher number of passengers and flights so its hard to accurately compare them to the Islamabad airport.

    Suffice it to say, based upon my personal experience, Islamabad airport is ready and more than capable of handling both the security and transportation needs of international flights and travellers

  12. @Salim Badruddin “Slim Stewardesses” This is an airplane not a strip club. Their job is not to entertain you with their bodies. As a Pakistani I must say you are doing nothing to help the worlds false perception of us as sexists.

  13. I don’t think that it will prove to be a profitable route for PIA. They should terminate their operation totally for US with outdated onboard entertainment system and poor seats which aren’t comfortable at all.

  14. Pia still represents our national carrier’s status.
    Pakistanis expats will always welcome direct flights to the USA, no doubt there.
    Both east and west coasts(NYC,Lax) of the USA including mid points like Houston or Dallas can be operated and turned into profitable routes with an emphasis on regularity and frequency.
    After all Pia used to be the darling airline for the Americans in the 50s and 60s.Why not now!

  15. It would be great thing to start non stop flights to US and back to Pakistan. First all huge time saving and the home like atmosphere as soon as one enters the aircraft. Most definitely Me and my family would love to these flight in action as soon as possible.
    Best of Luck PIA.

  16. I agree with some of the commentators; in 2006, after Haj, my wife and I get chance to fly from Jeddah, it was worst experience in life to fly with PIA. Flight back to California was Emirates. There was no law and order on board, pushing, hurling, even passenger was using absurd language, none of the passenger was courteous to anyone, staring at female like they never saw any woman in their lifetime, air hostesses, flight staff members at the check in counter or those who were facilitating the boarding were no courteous at all. As soon as we board on the flight, there was no concept of cleanliness, bathrooms; filthy and awful, that was first and last trip with PIA. PIA only server better to the corrupt politicians of that country and gangsters of Pakistan.

  17. Yes they should explore the business opportunity. The new government and new PIA management are efficient with great people airline have better opportunity. They will learn and can become competitive if they try. Definitely it’s first priority of 200 million population of Pakistan. Non stop flight from US or Canada would definitely save long flight time for respectful Pakistan citizens. Of course PIA should stay up par

  18. PIA used to fly to Washington DC as well back in the 90’s. Houston and Chicago were other destinations for PIA in the 1990’s and 2000’s. NYC had been served constantly since the 1960’s.

  19. @Tariq, Lucky was referring to the interior, seat, hardware, etc., not the plane model itself.

  20. Am I reading this correctly? Do you know how many Pakistani people fly to Pakistan? We used to take PIA from NY to Lahore twice a year AND on business class. Every seat is booked. There is never an empty flight going to Pakistan. They definitely need to update the plane. The demand is there. Just take the crooks out of the mix and then you will see the yield. Bring the flights back and nonstop to NY is PERFECT!! Manchester is awful layover, they treat us like cattle, trying to hold us all in a tiny gate and going through all the ridiculous screening. We love PIA

  21. To all the naysayers who may not have ever flown PIA, I’m happy to report that their economy class on those 777s really, really isn’t that bad. The seats are a little old – but what that actually means is they have padding and are larger and more comfortable. The catering is also pretty good. It wouldn’t be a swanky experience, but its definitely not the worst.

    Also, for the “no business flyers to Pakistan” folks, I fly there in business regularly and I’m definitely not in defense.

    Lastly, if the problem-plagued AirIndia can make their routes work, I really don’t see why Pakistan couldn’t.

  22. I wonder why they don’t do a triangle flight with the YYZ service and offer a higher frequency. Something like Islamabad-New York-Toronto-Islamabad with a 4-5 weekly flights. Triangle might be more cost effective with higher utilization at least. Don’t know about legal and logistical issues though.

  23. This rout should be resume, because its good for travling with kids and elders no extra stop.

  24. Pia airlines direct flights to Pakistan are needed i know myself and others, who have travelled on other airlines and have hated the layovers

  25. This is a niche route and will be an immediate success as no other airline is offering nonstop flight on Pakistan route. Ederlies and families would be willing yo pay premium for direct flight . This will save them several hours of lay over time and exhaustion.

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