Pakistan International Airlines Finally Cutting Flights To The US?

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Pakistan International Airlines operates a twice weekly flight between Lahore and New York. On the westbound flight, the plane makes a stop in Manchester, where passengers have to get off and reclear security. That’s because the US doesn’t allow nonstop flights from Pakistan due to safety concerns. Meanwhile the eastbound flight operates nonstop.

Last year I had the opportunity to take this flight from Manchester to New York. PIA has attractive one-way business class fares from Manchester to New York, if you can figure out how to book them. The experience was… interesting. The crew seemed well intentioned, but the airline certainly has a lot of room for improvement.

PIA has been flying to New York since 1961, so it’s a well established route. However, I’ve long heard rumors of them cutting this route due to losses. Given that Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar fly to Pakistan and offer a significantly better product and more attractive pricing, PIA really can’t compete. That’s especially true when you consider that PIA doesn’t even have the advantage of flying nonstop, given that they have to stop in Manchester on the way out.

Well, it looks like this route might finally be coming to an end. Over the past week I’ve read reports that PIA was seriously considering cutting the route. For example, a few days ago quoted “officials” about the route being cut:

According to the officials, PIA has been incurring losses of up to Rs1.25 billion annually due to its flight operations to the US – a concern which prompted the management to discontinue the flights. The airline is no longer booking US flights through its reservation system after October 31.

Sources privy to the matter said the airline had decided several times in the past to discontinue US flights due to the financial losses; however, it faced ‘political pressure’ each time, which hindered its plans.

Some politicians holding dual citizenship, top government officials and pilots exerted ‘pressure’ on the airline not to stop its US flight operations. These flights were ‘beneficial’ to the politicians and officials, the sources said.

If my math is right, that amount to about 12 million USD in losses per year. That’s massive for a twice weekly flight. Unfortunately I’m not surprised by the reasons this route has been kept around.

However, following these news stories, PIA officials stated that no final decision had been made, and that the route will continue operating for the time being. Well, @airlineroute notes that PIA has stopped accepting reservations for their flight to New York JFK as of October 31, 2017.

While there hasn’t been an official announcement of the flight cancelations, it sure seems unlikely that they’d close reservations for the flights if they intend to keep the route. Then again, maybe I’m trying to apply too much logic here, given that the route has been kept around for so long. I guess we’ll have to wait and see — I wouldn’t be surprised if on October 31 they decide they want to keep around the route after all.

Let’s keep in mind that PIA has the second highest ratio of staff to airplanes of any airline in the world, after Syrian Air. They have 391 staff per plane. Yow…

  1. I guess this would leave only Toronto as their sole North American destination. I wonder how their Toronto flight is doing in comparison given that they are losing so much money flying to New York. I believe it operates non-stop in both directions and they fly from Toronto to Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

  2. @ YYZFlyer
    The YYZ route is doing good for PIA. As you mentioned the airline operates three times a week to three different destinations in Pakistan. I know quite a few people who take this flight because it’s the only non-stop option. All other options take 21+ hrs vs 13hrs direct. Also Toronto has one of the biggest Pakistani communities in North America. PIA also has code-share agreements with AC, and WS to NYC so I think the flight will continue to do well if PIA leaves JFK.

  3. KTHY (Cyprus Turkish Airlines ) had 800 staff /airplane and they bancrupted.I think this is the world record. Most of the staff was not coming to work indeed just getting salary.

  4. Lucky

    I take my hat off to you for flying PIA, that shows absolute commitment.

    I’ve heard some pretty awful stories about PIA, all the money in the world wouldn’t be enough to get me on one of their planes.

    Think I’ll check out your review, I’m intrigued.

  5. @Armen IPEKCI,
    Agree with you. PIA is on the same track. The statement is about PIA pilots, politicians and officials not wanting to discontinue service because they benefit from this segment is only partially true. The actual problem is the number of employees per aircraft, and as you said, they don’t go to work and draw salaries.

  6. Not only is there a massive Pakistani presence in Toronto, but Canada also imposes limits on the number of flights allowed per airline, so Emirates and the like are already capped out. New York is a different story, where Emirates alone has 4 A380s plus a 77W (EWR) daily and PIA doesn’t stand a chance.

    By the way, it wasn’t always this way with PIA. There was a time they ran a pretty classy operation and had a great reputation. I flew their A300s and 747s many times as a child. I also recall they were the first airline to fly the 777-200LR.

  7. I do see why PIA’s planning to keep Toronto flight while discarding JFK.
    As others mentioned above, Canada’s highly regulated airline markets means that ME3 has limited number of flights to Canada. At the moment from Toronto, there’s 3/w service to Dubai on Emirates, 3/w service to Abu Dhabi on Etihad, and Air Canada has 3/w service to Dubai. Qatar doesn’t even fly to Toronto, instead they have 3/w service to Montréal. Given there’s a big Pakistani diaspora communities in Canada, there isn’t simply enough flights between two nations, taking aside there not being enough connecting flights via Europe (no major European carriers fly to Pakistan, apart from Turkish)
    This is no the case for the USA. JFK’s already got 7 daily flights to the ME3 hubs (Dubai 3/D, Abu Dhabi 2/D, Doha 2/D) while other major cities like Boston, Philly, and Chicago are getting enough love from ME3.

  8. A malaise has struck Pakistan International Airlines, once a national asset with crack pilots and sound management.

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