Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has inducted two Boeing 737-800 aircraft on wet lease into its fleet, giving its capacity on shorter routes within the country and to the Middle East region a much-need boost, the carrier said on Thursday.
Two more of these narrow-body aircraft will join PIA’s ageing fleet by end of the month. The aircraft have been inducted on a lease of three months, buying the airline enough time before it leases a further 10 aircraft on a longer dry lease.
“Someone should have thought about inducting narrow body aircraft 2-3 years back,” said Junaid Yunus, PIA’s Managing Director (MD). “Fifty percent of our existing fleet is not fuel efficient. The result is that we are operating 777s on shorter routes.”
PIA’s management has struggled for months to convince the government, which owns a majority stake in the national carrier, to let it lease planes. Out of a fleet of 30 aircraft, the airline is only using 24 due to lack of funds for the repairs.
The cost difference between new-generation B-737s and PIA’s existing planes is large. “An A-310 consumes 5,300 kilogrammes (kg) of fuel during a flight between Karachi and Islamabad. A B 737-800 consumes just 2,400kg. Even if lease payment is factored in, there are still savings of 30% to 35%.”
The planes have been leased from Corendon Airlines, of Turkey. The two other planes on damp Lease will come from Travel Services, of the Czech Republic.
A PIA statement quoted Chairman PIA, Muhammad Ali Gardezi, these fuel-efficient aircraft will be deployed on Gulf routes and major domestic routes, he said.
The Boeing 737-800 has a capacity of 189 seats and will be operated with an all-economy configuration. With the increased fleet size, the airline will offer flights to new destinations while increasing frequencies of flights on its profitable routes.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) allows airlines to induct aircraft on wet or damp leases. In a wet lease, the aircraft’s cockpit and cabin crew is arranged by the lessor who also pays for the insurance and maintenance of the plane.