• Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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PIA flights to UK may resume soon as Pakistan seeks to privatise ailing airline

By: Eastern Eye

PAKISTAN will appoint an adviser to draft a plan to privatise its money-losing national airline, the caretaker government’s privatisation minister Fawad Hasan Fawad said on Tuesday (10).

The outgoing coalition government said in August that Pakistan International Airline (PIA) will be privatised together with the outsourcing of operations at three major airports. The privatisation of PIA, a state-owned enterprise, comes after Pakistan agreed to devise a policy on such loss-making entities as part of fiscal discipline plans with the International Monetary Fund.

Pakistan secured a $3 billion (£2.44bn) IMF bailout in June to avert a sovereign debt default.

“We will appoint a single transaction adviser,” the minister told reporters in Islamabad, adding that the appointment will probably be finalised on Wednesday (11) as the country’s ailing $350bn (£285bn) economy could not afford further delays.

The financial adviser’s report will enable the government to take a final decision, he said.

“We’re trying our best to keep the PIA flying,” Fawad said, adding it was a very difficult job. “No financial institution in the country has got any appetite to loan any more money to the PIA.”

He said the airline was recording yearly losses of about 156 billion Pakistani rupees (£453 million), adding that 15 aircraft, including six on lease, out of a fleet of 34 were grounded due to financial constraints. The airline had accumulated over 713 billion rupees (£2.07bn) in losses as of June 2023, he said. “We’re not in a position to bear it anymore.”

Pakistan hopes to resume PIA flights to Britain in the next three months after services were suspended following a fake pilot scandal in 2020. Flights to Europe and the UK have been suspended since then, after the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency revoked its authorisation to fly to the bloc following the pilot licence scandal. The minister said local aviation authorities informed him that European agency will likely visit Pakistan by the end of this year or early next year for a final safety review, which could lead to lifting of the ban.

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