PIA the national carrier is grappling with a severe disruption in its flight operations. The unavailability of fuel, compounded by the prevailing financial crunch, has led to the cancellation of multiple flights from various cities, leaving passengers inconvenienced and raising concerns about the airline’s precarious financial situation.
A total of 26 flights originating from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta, Bahawalpur, Multan, Gwadar, and other cities have been cancelled, primarily due to the reduction in fuel supply by the Pakistan State Oil (PSO), according to sources.
PIA’s management is actively addressing the situation and anticipates the resumption of fuel supply once credit lines are reinstated, as stated by a PIA spokesperson. Passengers affected by the cancellations are being accommodated on alternative flights, ensuring that their travel plans are not unduly disrupted.
Of the 26 cancelled flights, 18 were scheduled to depart from Karachi, including three bound for Islamabad. Additionally, Lahore and Islamabad each had two flights bound for Karachi cancelled, further aggravating the operational challenges faced by the airline.
Amidst these challenges, PIA has been contending with dire financial circumstances. In July of this year, the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) took the unprecedented step of freezing all of PIA’s bank accounts due to non-payment of taxes, exacerbating the airline’s financial woes. As a result, PIA struggled to meet its financial obligations to the PSO, leading to the reduction in fuel supply that has now adversely affected its flight operations.
In a bid to address its financial challenges, PIA sought an emergency bailout of Rs22.9 billion in September, which was, unfortunately, rejected by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC). The ECC also turned down PIA’s request to defer payments of Rs1.3 billion per month to the FBR for Federal excise duty (FED) and Rs0.7 billion per month to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for embarking charges.
Adding to the national carrier’s woes, earlier this month, a PIA flight (PK 790) faced an operational halt in Canada following complaints from ground handling and fuel companies. The airline managed to resolve the issue and clear outstanding dues worth $200,000, allowing the flight to resume its journey.
The disruptions in PIA’s flight operations serve as a stark reminder of the challenging financial situation facing the airline. These challenges not only impact the airline’s day-to-day operations but also raise concerns about the sustainability of the national carrier in the long run.
As PIA works to resolve the immediate fuel shortage issue and stabilize its financial footing, the incident underscores the need for comprehensive measures to address its underlying financial challenges. Ensuring the financial viability of Pakistan’s national carrier is essential not only for the airline itself but also for the passengers it serves and the nation’s broader aviation industry.