Recent years have seen a series of controversies concerning Pakistan International Airlines, and another has emerged today. Reports have suggested that one of its aircraft has been held back by Malaysian authorities over a British court case.
One-sided court decision
According to The Economic Times, the aircraft has been held following a one-sided decision by a Malaysian court. Specifically, this matter concerns an ongoing legal dispute between PIA and another party. The result of this dispute is still pending in a British court. The matter under investigation in the UK allegedly concerns an arbitration case regarding payments. According to Devdiscourse, it pertains to a $14 million lease dispute concerning two jets leased to PIA in 2015 by AerCap. This Dublin-based aircraft lessor is the world’s largest.
Following the court order, authorities seized a PIA aircraft in Malaysia. They then assisted in making alternative arrangements for its passengers’ return journeys to Pakistan. Nonetheless, PIA still described the nature of the situation as “unacceptable.” The Pakistani flag carrier has even gone as far as to request support from the country’s government. It hopes that, with government support, it will be able to raise the matter on a diplomatic level.
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The aircraft in question
Thus far, neither PIA nor the Malaysian authorities have disclosed the location of the aircraft that has been held. Initial reports also did not disclose its registration, merely the fact that it is a Boeing 777. According to Planespotters.net, PIA has 12 of these long-haul twinjets in its fleet. 10 of these aircraft are currently in active service, which narrows it down slightly more.
However, data from the tracking website FlightRadar24.com seems to offer a more conclusive answer. It shows that a PIA 777-200 bearing the registration AP-BMH flew into Malaysia earlier today. It operated flight PK894 from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad (ISB) this morning, departing around an hour late at 03:12 local time. Arrival in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur (KUL) occurred just under five-and-a-half hours later, at 11:38 local time.
Furthermore, the return flight, PK895, which was due to depart Kuala Lumpur at 13:00, has been canceled. FlightRadar24.com’s data also shows that AP-BMH has not flown since arriving in Malaysia, which suggests fairly conclusively that it is the impounded aircraft. According to Planespotters.net, the aircraft is 15.1 years old. It arrived at PIA in December 2015, having spent its first decade of service with Vietnam Airlines.
A difficult 2020 for the airline
PIA made headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2020. In May, one of its Airbus A320s crashed on its descent into Karachi. Of the 99 passengers and crew onboard, just two survived. If this wasn’t bad enough, the airline was also rocked by a pilot licensing scandal later in the year.
In June 2020, the airline suspended 150 of its pilots over the suspected use of fake licenses. It has since checked and cleared 110 of these, but the damage had already been done. The following month, the EASA banned PIA from operating in Europe for an initial six-month period. Last month, it added a further three months to this term. Following this difficult 2020, the seizing of a PIA aircraft in Malaysia does not represent the better start to 2021 that the airline will have wanted.
PIA and the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia have been contacted with a request for further comment on the matter. We will update the article when their statements arrive.
What do you make of this incident? Have you ever flown with PIA? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.