ISLAMABAD: New Boeing 777-200ER aircraft of Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIAC) Saturday made inaugural landing at the Islamabad airport with over 230 passengers on-board.
The flight touched down at around 6:30 am. Senior officials of PIAC received it, while a formal induction ceremony was held where Minister for Defence Rao Sikandar Iqbal was the chief guest.
The state-of-the-art aircraft was handed over to PIA in Seattle (US) on Jan 29, from where it flew to London and landed at Heathrow airport. After two-hour stopover the aircraft carrying 200 passengers landed at Islamabad on Saturday morning. The plane carries a number of on-board modern facilities for entertainment and recreation besides direct access to Internet and telecommunication.
Chairman-PIAC Ahmed Saeed, who was formally handed over the charge of the newly built aircraft by the management of Boeing Company, along with his wife, travelled in the plane as normal passengers by purchasing tickets for himself and his spouse.
The aircraft is the first in the lot of eight aircraft of the 777 series to be handed over to PIA till 2008 as part of the biggest ever deal of $1.5 billion of the country. The second aircraft is expected to be handed over to the Airline on February 12 while two others during the third week of March this year.
Executive Vice President of Boeing Toby Bright and other senior staff of the company were among those who were onboard the inaugural flight.
PIA, in all, he said, will induct eight of the latest Boeing 777 family aircraft into its fleet by 2008 as part of a master business plan, approved by the then Chief Executive and now the President of Pakistan, to modernize and extend its fleet within the next decade.
The following year, it set and achieved targets of Rs 2.2 billion and in the following year 2003 it achieved a higher profit of 3.3 billion rupees, he added. PIA has also revived some of its old destinations like Chicago, Almaty, Tashkent and Sharjah.
Welcoming the normalisation of relations with India, and opening of the Indian airspace, Rao Sikandar said PIA will be reviving its flight to Mumbai, Delhi, Kathmandu, Dhaka and Colombo. "Some additional destinations are also in the pipeline and may be surfacing soon on PIA’s route map," the minister said.
The airline is also marking the day by introducing a fresh new livery for its aircraft and a new look for its cabin crew, he said. "With the introduction of Boeing 777 family aircraft into PIA fleet, we hope to see the national carrier well on its way to not just regaining all its past glory but surpassing its own past records to compete with the best and take its place among the top airlines in the airline industry, worldwide, Insha-Allah," he said.
He congratulated the secretary defence, chairman and PIAC Management for attaining yet another landmark in their march toward new avenues and frontiers. Earlier, in his welcome address PIAC chairman pointing out their future plans said that the airline has wide open vistas to make headway in achieving economic prosperity for itself in general and ultimately for the country in particular.
He said the deal was finalised following hectic efforts made at different levels and the dream has come true giving impetus to the economy of the airline. He said the deal was finalised on basis of equity by the government while the rest amount had been managed by Exim Bank on very minimal interest rate.
At Heathrow airport, the flight was warmly received by Pakistani expatriates especially the business community and diplomatic staff. A reception was organised on the occasion.
Ahmed Saeed expressed determination to improve the standards of the airline besides planning to open flight operation for 12 new destinations around the globe. Talking to APP, he said the induction of four 777 aircraft series of Boeing family by March next would amply help the airline to start direct operations for comparatively longer destinations. The PIAC is the first airlines which has made a deal for purchase of all three state-of-the-art versions of 777 series including 200ER, 200LR and 300ER.
He said the induction of new fleet of the Boeing family will not only enhance direct access of PIAC’s flights to longer destinations but also bring it at par with other airlines in the field. He said the destinations like London, Chicago, Toronto, New York, Shanghai, Nairobi, Houston would become under direct access of the airline after the induction of the four aircraft by end of March.
The PIAC would also be receiving the lot of other four aircraft of the 777 series by 2008. Regarding the shifting of the impact of such heavy financial expenditure, following reaching the biggest ever deal of $1.5 billion by PIAC to the passengers, he said steps would be taken that much burden of it should not shift to the Economy Class passengers. However, he said, the Business Class being offered comparatively much luxurious facilities and those would ultimately had some more recurring cost thus its conclusive impact will have to be shifted to the passengers of this class.
"We have to compete in the market and this could only be possible that if the standards were maintained properly," he said. Referring to the achievements made in the profit-earning sector by the PIAC, he said, it earned profit of Rs 3.5 billion during 2003 while the estimated figures for 2004 are Rs 4.5 billion.