The Worst Airline In The World Is Up For Sale

Pakistan International Airlines hasn’t flown to Europe in three years after it was revealed that more than 30% of their pilots had fake licenses. The airline has had widebody jets repossessed.

It is the worst airline in the world. Best known for sacrificing a goat for safety and flying with more passengers than seats (and making customers stand for 1700 miles), the airline’s former CEO was once detained by law enforcement as a result of his efforts to provide good seats and service by wet leasing aircraft from SriLankan. At PIA even operating on time creates problems: customers build failure into their expectations and don’t actually show up for flights when they’re scheduled to depart.

Eight years ago Pakistan agreed to privatize PIA as a condition of receiving an IMF bailout. However the plan led to employee protests which turned violent in clashes with police involving rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas.

Both Etihad and Emirates sniffed around the carrier, since the both pick up significant traffic from Pakistan. In addition at least 1.5 million Pakistanis live in Dubai alone. However the government called off the privatization in 2019.

Last year there was talk of Qatar Airways taking control of the troubled carrier. Now the Pakistani government says they expect to privatize the airline. They also plan for it to re-start service to the United Kingdom, and the government intends to sell the Roosevelt Hotel in New York.

It always struck me odd that Delta, American, and United claimed it wasn’t fair that Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar were allowed to fly to the U.S. because they ‘can’t compete against governments.’ And maybe that’s true when your business model targets offering customer service at levels similar to the post office or DMV.

However Pakistan International Airlines is the archetype of what a government-run airline is like. The government has been subsidizing losses for years — totaling billions of dollars — the last time the carrier even claimed to earn a profit (of $16 million) was 2004. Instead it’s been run largely for the benefit of employees, and for politicians, not passengers (something some US carriers may be familiar with).

Before the pandemic PIA announced plans to fly to the U.S. starting in 2020, and even claiming the U.S. would allow them to handle their own security. Do you think Pakistan International Airlines service will have competitors running scared?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. PIA is, in my opinion, a true reflection of its home country. Why any sane person would fly PIA, let alone to Pakistan, is beyond me.

  2. Why go to Pakistan?

    1. The food is excellent ( if you like Indian food
    2. Great access to the Himalayas
    3. Relatively inexpensive

  3. Sounds like an airline to keep off of USA soil. Too high of a risk from falling out of the sky or tying up the airport.

  4. A few years ago, pre-pandemic 200 people would board a plane with 1500 pieces of luggage.
    At YYZ.
    FUN. WOW.

  5. Sounds like the once great South African Airways. Three years ago, due to the pandemic and huge government corruption, SAA fired ALL but 88 pilots! The only ones they retained were those “of color'”. Then, when they realized that they let all of the senior pilots go and had none of these 88 qualified to command…they had the balls to demand that the fired pilots return. Only a few came back and they are junior to those 88 “newbies”. The rest have pulled up stakes and gone elsewhere. Nelson Mandela is rolling over in his grave. All of his good works have gone up in smoke due to the corruption of the Ramphosa government. Too bad the rest of the world doesn’t ban SAA. Oh, well!

  6. @Roger:
    > Why go to Pakistan?
    > 2. Great access to the Himalayas

    Yeah. I was reading up on a trek that looked really fun. Oops, step #1 was “Fly to Islamabad.”

    I’ve actually been to Pakistan long ago before the Islamist violence problems. No way I’m going back!

  7. PIA is worse than Air India, which regularly leaves customers stranded for 24-48 hours? Tough call.

  8. Ridiculous article begins with sensationalism regarding 30% pilots with fake licenses which simply isn’t true. The author should know better than to use a Pakistani politician as his source of Information.

  9. I thought Air Koryo was the world’s worst airline due to it being the only 1 star rated airline by Skytrax. PIA is by no means great but your title screams “racism.”

  10. If PIA is so unsafe then why do other countries, including developed nations such as Canada, have no issues with them flying there? Wouldn’t there have been significantly higher tragedies if it’s truly as unsafe as the reports claim? Yeah true they have ALOT to work on in terms of cabin, but the sensationalized article is making them sound like a death trap and has racist undertones.

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