Pakistan International will resume flights to the UK next week following a leasing agreement with Hi Fly. The airline will use Hi Fly’s A330neo to fly two routes between the UK and Islamabad. The wet lease contracts come after a PIA crash, which revealed pilots with fake licenses flying for the airline, which led to the airline receiving a ban from EASA, the EU’s aviation regulator.
Following a disastrous crash in May, which saw an A320 crash into a residential area in Karachi, PIA suspended 150 pilots over fraudulent licenses. The investigation pushed European regulators to ban PIA and all pilots with Pakistani licenses, leaving the airline unable to fly key repatriation flights.
PIA lost flying rights to Europe after an investigation found hundreds of pilots with fake licenses. Photo: Getty Images
With PIA now suspended from flying to Europe, the carrier had to search for new alternatives to fly citizens in and out of Pakistan. The airline recently signed a codeshare with Turkish Airlines giving it access to a number of destinations in Europe and the US.
For repatriations, PIA signed a wet lease contract with Hi Fly, flying between Paris and Islamabad. PIA can operate flights through Hi Fly since the wet lease carrier provides its own crew for the flights. Now, the airline is once again relying on Hi Fly, this time for flights between the UK and Pakistan.
High demand from the UK
Seeing very high demand for flights between the UK and Pakistan, PIA has opted to wet lease Hi Fly’s A330-900neo. The aircraft has a seating capacity of 371 passengers and can easily fly nonstop between the two countries.
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The flight will carry PIA flight numbers, with the first flight leaving Islamabad for Manchester on August 14th with flight number PK 9702. The next flight, PK 9785, will be from London Heathrow to Islamabad on August 15th. Additional services, including trips to Birmingham, are yet to be announced.
British Airways, too, is set to resume flights to Pakistan on the same day, flying thrice-weekly to Islamabad. Prices for European flights have shot up drastically since PIA’s ban, which left few direct options to the country.
A330neo proves popular
This isn’t the first time Hi Fly has teamed up with airlines to bring their citizens home. Last week, Indian budget carrier SpiceJet leased Hi Fly’s A330neo for a repatriation mission between Amsterdam Schiphol and Bangalore, India.
Hi Fly has seen its popularity surge during the COVID-19 crisis, with the company now having a ready to go repatriation service. The airline has also flown dozens of cargo flights globally, including being the first to convert its A380 into a freighter.
With PIA banned from European airspace for at least the rest of the year, it is possible we see more such flights. Demand for flights is expected to rise in the coming months even as other carriers fill in for PIA.
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