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ATRs grounded, A310s retiring: PIA fleet crisis may worsen

ATRs grounded, A310s retiring: PIA fleet crisis may worsen

LAHORE: After ATRs fiasco, the Pakistan International Airlines’ fleet crisis may further worsen as its three A310 aircraft are expected to retire by the end of month.

“The three A310 (over 200 seats) have outlived their utility and the national flag carrier is going to retire them by Dec 31 as per an earlier decision of the management,” a source in the airlines told Dawn on Monday.

He said after grounding of the ATRs, there was a suggestion to retain the old A310s to maintain PIA’s operational face but the management rejected it.

The A310s are operational on different international routes, including Beijing, Tokyo, Kualalumpur and Saudi Arabia.

The PIA is hoping to get replacement for the retiring A310s from the companies in the international market on ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ lease in next few weeks.

On the instruction of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the PIA has already grounded its entire ATR fleet after its flight PK-661 carrying 47 passengers and crew crashed on the way to Islamabad from Chitral on Dec 7. One ATR has been declared fit for flight after shakedown test.

Before grounding the ATRs, the PIA was operating around 45 to 50 flights daily on different domestic and three international routes (Kabul, Muscat and Sharjah) using these planes.

The currently operational PIA fleet would be reduced to some 20 planes after the recent grounding of ATRs, retiring of A310s and technical issues with some other aircraft, making it difficult for it to manage its operation on both domestic and international routes.

The PIA in October last had advertised for acquiring wide and narrow body aircraft on wet and dry lease for both short and long terms. However, no deal has reportedly been finalised so far with any leasing company.

Sources said the international companies had apprehensions about leasing planes to the PIA, keeping in view of the financial health of the national flag carrier. On the other hand, PIA was also looking for the terms and conditions which best suited it, they added.

“We have advertised for acquiring new aircraft on lease and expect to have them in coming weeks,” PIA General Manager (Public Affairs) Danyal Gilani told Dawn on Monday.

To a question about scheduled retirement of A310s, Mr Gilani said: “We have advertised the A310s for sale.” During coming days, he said, hopefully more ATRs would rejoin the PIA fleet after clearing shakedown test as one of them has already done so.

Another PIA official said the national flag carrier could only think of starting new and restoring old routes if it had ‘enough aircraft’ in its fleet. “At present we are more concerned about making our current routes operational after the grounding of the ATRs and retiring A310,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2016

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