Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is gearing up to resume direct flights between Pakistan and the United States.
The Federal Minister for Aviation, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, revealed this while addressing a press conference at Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority’s (PCCA) headquarter on Thursday.
“US security officials visited the Islamabad airport and expressed concern over direct flights to the US, which has been addressed.”
He said that the flight operation between the two countries is expected to commence after Prime Minister Imran Khan completes his two-day visit to the US in the coming week.
PIA had closed its flights to New York via Manchester in October 2017. The airline’s spokesperson, Mashood Tajwar, has claimed that the step was taken because it was economically unviable to run such a long flight with a stopover. The route was reportedly incurring a loss of $12 million per year.
PIA had been operating to the US since 1961. It was the first carrier of the region to connect the USA with Mainland China and the Far East. In fact, the airline had ordered Boeing 777 LRs (Long Range) aircraft in the late 90s to fly directly on this route.
However, the direct flights to the US were halted due to security concerns post 9/11 attack. The US authorities insisted PIA flights come through an airport it trusted like Manchester or any other destination in Europe for security checks.
The Boeing 777-200LR was added to the fleet in February 2006. It was when the national flag carrier started operating direct flights on longer routes of Islamabad-Manchester and Karachi-Toronto.
Despite the losses, PIA flew connected flights via Manchester to New York for over a decade before finally abandoning the route in 2017.
“Boeing 777-200LR is the premium aircraft for long-haul flights, and if operated on short routes, it does not yield desired results,” said the spokesperson.
He went on to explain that an additional stopover means extra airport charges, ground handling charges, and a longer route which translates into more fuel and time consumption.