On Sunday, August 14, Pakistan celebrated its Independence Day from British rule, and its flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) put its first Airbus A330-300 into scheduled operations featuring its new “Premier Service” business class.
If you have been following Matthew and Ben’s travels over the past few weeks, you will notice that they flew on a series of “nontraditional” carriers that fly lower-profile routes and offer unique flying experiences relative to their larger peers. One of these flights involved PIA, which they flew in Business Class from Manchester to New York JFK.
As a regular reader of both Matthew and Ben’s posts, I observed, with admiration, as the two of them extracted the positive takeaways from their journeys on-board carriers such as PIA, Royal Air Maroc, Saudia and China Eastern, noting that public perceptions gleaned from internet reviews only scratch the surface in terms of uncovering the real stories behind rich airline history.
For PIA, the A330’s they are wet-leasing from Sri Lankan airlines will bring a revamped product for the troubled carrier. The business class will feature lie-flat seats, turn-down service, complimentary Wi-Fi and a 5-course dining menu. Business class passengers will also receive complimentary limosine service upon arrival into Heathrow.
In the economy class cabin, customers can expect free wifi, an enriched in-flight entertainment system with 250 channels of programming, including features such as a live camera and, “learn Urdu” on flights to Pakistan. PIA will also offer enhancements such as hot scented lemon towels during boarding, a selection of three main course options during dining, boiled sweets and ice cream service in between meals. There will also be onboard raffles to win free tickets, model aircrafts, PIA memorabilia and a farewell gift of luxury PIA branded chocolate distributed during disembarkation.
PIA also introduced new crew uniforms, trading in the traditional green and gold garments for burgundy-and-maroon dresses with green scarves (female) and male flight attendants to wear navy blue suits and green ties.
The Premier Service flights will initially run 6 weekly frequencies, with three services from Islamabad to London Heathrow and three from Lahore to London Heathrow. As more A330s join the fleet, PIA will expand its Premier Service to other routes.
The initiative, and wet lease bidding process, is a cornerstone of the, “revival of PIA.”
Our AvGeek community is tight-knit, and we span across hundreds of countries, communities and enterprises. PIA is no exception to that. While I have never flown on PIA, and have never been to Pakistan in my life, I have made several friends of Pakistani origin throughout my life. In fact, before the Partition of India took place in 1947, I had relatives on both sides of my family residing in the Pakistan-side of the border. My grandfather was studying in Lahore before the creation of East Punjab that year, and narrowly managed to escape to the Indian side to avoid death since he was Hindu.
After the partition, both my maternal and paternal grandparents settled in New Delhi, where both of my parents were born. I’ve visited to India many times, and I recall one occasion where I was catching up with my grandmother about growing up during turbulent political times in the 1940s. She grew up in Kashmir, also an extremely troubled region in the North of India near the Pakistan border, and home to beautiful valleys and mountain ranges of the Himalayas. She always said to me, “in your lifetime, be sure to surround yourself with people who are from Pakistan: they will always be your best friends, no matter what.”
PIA has a rich aviation history, despite the struggles and bureacracies the airline faces as a consequence of being state-owned. I have always been very impressed by the number of websites and interest forums that exist on the web in hommage to PIA and Pakistani aviation. Although I have no immediate plans to fly PIA in the future (although that may change) I hope that this story has inspired as much joy in all of you as it has in me.