Boeing 777s to arrive next year as additional widebodies and turboprops are considered

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has taken an internal decision to acquire Boeing 777s for a long-planned fleet modernisation. The carrier hopes to start receiving aircraft next year.

The state-owned airline has been considering fleet upgrades for years but it has been repeatedly deferred because of political and financial troubles. It says now that the government has pledged to set aside cash for aircraft orders - and they should begin with the addition of three 777s next year, either on lease or purchased direct from Boeing with expected US Eximbank financing.

Chairman Hamid Nawaz Khan says the carrier is still assessing its fleet plans, but PIA has tentatively decided to acquire eight new wide-body aircraft for service entry between 2003 and 2008.

PIA says the plan calls for three 777s to be added next year. Two more new widebodies will be acquired in 2006 and three more in 2008, although the carrier stresses they could be aircraft built by either Airbus or Boeing.

"We have not decided everything yet, but the first three in 2003 will be from the 777 family," PIA says. "For the later aircraft it depends what is available."

PIA says it also plans to replace ageing Airbus A300B4s "as soon as possible" by leasing four more A310-300s. It may also acquire A310 freighters, it says.

In addition, the carrier plans to replace its ageing Fokker F27s "by next year" with up to eight new turboprop aircraft, although no decision has been taken on type.

PIA said last month that the government had promised to set aside initial funding of Rs4.6 billion ($77 million) to help with the fleet modernisation, and orders were planned for either 777s or Airbus A340s. That announcement came after an airline board meeting called to consider a new long-term business plan covering 2003-11. The board tentatively agreed the carrier should acquire 11 new aircraft during that period, for replacement and expansion.

Replacements are intended primarily for A300B4s and Boeing 747-200s. The carrier recently agreed to acquire six Boeing 747-300s from Cathay Pacific Airways, five of which are already being leased from the Hong Kong-based carrier.

Source: Flight International