LONDON – Pakistan Internal Airlines has given seven of its Heathrow slots away on an agreement with two foreign airlines in a bid to be able to keep their overall ownership of them.
PIA Banned From Europe
It is understood that Heathrow airport has been placing pressure on PIA to release their expensive slots fate the carrier was no longer able to use them due to the current ban of flights from the carrier by the European Union’s aviation authority EASA who banned them in 2020 following a fatal crash.
It was not long after the crash that one of the largest candles in modern-day aviation (at the time) broke out, with it being revealed that over 262 Pakistans commercial pilots’ licences were fraudulent, following a horrific investigation which found they had paid other to take their licensing tests in their stead.
The carrier is understandably unwilling to completely release their slots into London Heathrow as they remain confident that they will soon be able to fly back to the UK and other EU destinations expecting the ban to be lifted.
Pakistan aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said back in January 2022 at a press conference: “PIA has applied for a resumption of European operations. We are hoping that in February or March, operations to Europe will begin again,”
As we now are into early October 2022, we have seen the carriers’ ban stand at almost 3 years, which is almost unprecedented in modern-day aviation where the safety standards are expected to be so high and maintained globally.
The agreement being made today will see Turkish Airlines take six of the seven available slots with Kuwait airways getting the seventh, however, it is understood that PIA will be signing this with the other airlines as a temporary agreement.
Hard Decisions For Heathrow Spots
The problem the airline faces is for how long EASA and the CAA will maintain this flight ban, without a clear indication of when we can expect them to begin services to the countries again. Before the ban, the carrier operated flights to Barcelona (BCN); Birmingham (BHX), London Heathrow (LHR) and Manchester (MAN) in England; Copenhagen (CPH); Milan (MXP); Oslo (OSL); and Paris de Gaulle (CDG).
With no end in sight for the ban to be lifted, should PIA consider the sale of their London Heathrow slots? With the number of slots the airline has perhaps it might be wiser if we are no closer to having the ban lifted by next year, consider selling three or four of its slots to someone such as Turkish airlines or perhaps other emerging carriers that wish to expand, like US carrier JetBlue.
While the decision on how best to deal with their slots is solely in the hand of PIA, it seems unlikely given the reason they were banned, to begin with, that we will see any real progress made in the bans remove before early 2023, more so now with the turmoil state that some airlines are going to find themselves in come winter 2022s service schedules starting, with a rough summer for carriers and airports setting the tone amidst an energy crisis.
Not All Doom and Gloom
It is not all bad news for the airline however, despite the disappointment with the lack of movement on its EU ban being lifted, the carrier is still looking to the future by it expanding its fleet with 5 new aircraft and earlier this year the carrier also confirming it would expand its services to Sydney Australia.
There are many other markets that the carrier can still operate and fly to and you would assume that should their operations and ratings climb it will not be long before that, that EASA and the CAA might reconsider their stance on the unbanning of the airline for their airspace.