Airline Profile; Pakistan International Airlines – Part 1

By Wajeeh Qureshi | March 28, 2020

Pakistan International Airlines was once regarded as a world-class state-owned airline; which at one point operated several iconic aircraft and held key routes for international travel. The airline has a rich history of aircraft, flight accolades, incidents, and political involvement. Pakistan International Airlines is headquartered in Jinnah International Airport, Karachi with a workforce of almost 15 000 employees. It operates 30 aircraft on both domestic and international routes.

Humble Beginnings:

Lockheed 1049C Super Constellation at LHR ©: RuthAS

Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) inception dates back to the late 1940s when a new airline by the name of Orient Airways Ltd. was formed in Calcutta. The airline initially operated with just a couple of DC-3s and a minimal flight crew. But it was on January 10th, 1955, that a state-owned airline called the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was formally established after a merger with Orient Airways Ltd, thereby inheriting the pre-developed infrastructure of Orient Airways Ltd. It used a Lockheed L-1049C Super Constellation for its first international service between Karachi and London on 1st February 1955.

The Golden Era of the airline:

It was really in the 1960s that the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) experienced a substantial boon. Under the new leadership of the then Managing Director, Air Marshal Nur Khan (took charge in 1959), the airline flourished and became the first Asian airline to acquire and operate a jet aircraft in its fleet.

Once the airline leased a Boeing-707-321 from Pan American Airways it began operating its first trans-Atlantic route of Karachi to New York. Throughout the decade, the airline placed many aircraft orders such as four Hawker Siddeley HS.121 Trident 1E (intended to replace the Vickers Viscount 815s fleet), Fokker F-27s, Boeing 720B, and Sikorsky helicopters. The airline further acquired McDonnell Douglas DC-10s and introduced two Boeing 747-282Bs into its fleet.

Revenue generated by the airline rose to $134 million between July and December of 1976. Pakistan International Airlines also provided technical and logistical support to several emerging airlines in the form of leased aircraft, training from pilots/flight crew and even hotel management services.

The airline continued growth as it entered the 1980s, but what led to its gradual decline in the following decades?


Watch out for Part 2 shortly.

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