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 geo.tv 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…