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US security concerns to affect Pak flag carrier revival
Publication Date : 31-07-2012
A US security requirement could undermine Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)’s plan to revive the ailing airline by buying five new aircraft from Boeing, diplomatic sources in Washington say.
The US aircraft manufacturer announced earlier this year that PIA had ordered five of its 777-300ER long-range passenger jets, with an option for five more.
The planes are valued at nearly US$1.5 billion at list prices. The deal is part of PIA’s long-haul fleet renewal programme aimed at accommodating increased demand for air travel as well as introducing new routes.
While announcing the deal, Boeing also assured Pakistan that the777-300ER was a perfect fit for PIA as it would generate more revenue and carry additional payload, while extending range capability.
PIA is particularly focused on re-winning once faithful Pakistani passengers from North America who now prefer Middle Eastern airlines.
An ageing fleet, lack of facilities and a hostile crew were some of the reasons that turned the Pakistani passengers away from PIA.
The airline, however, hopes that buying new planes would address at least some of these complaints.
But a US security requirement may affect the entire plan. While agreeing to help PIA restore its once daily flights to US cities, American authorities are insisting that all PIA flights originating in Pakistan must stop at Manchester, UK, for security checking.
And this process will involve re-opening the entire cargo, which may take five to six hours or even more.
“Passengers will not return to PIA if they have to wait for six hours in Manchester,” said a PIA official familiar with the US security procedure.
“Instead of decreasing, it will increase the flight time."