MIAMI – On Jan 15, a Pakistan International Airlines (PK) Boeing 777-200ER was impounded by the Malaysian authorities in Kuala Lumpur. The aircraft, AP-BMH, was about to operate the Islamabad (ISB)-Kuala Lumpur (KUL)-Islamabad (ISB) route when the event occurred.
The court-ordered action was taken by the lessor of the aircraft, AerCap, due to nonpayment from PK of a US$14m lease dispute, a PIA official said.
BMH is not the only aircraft that PK is behind in payments with. AP-BMG, in its retro livery, is also grounded and has not flown since December 20 since it returned from Beijing (PEK) according to FlightAware.
Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said in a statement on Friday that the aircraft was being held pending legal proceedings set for January 24.
Another Blow to PIA
The crew informed that they were fully ready for departure with passengers on board. As soon as they asked for start-up, the ATC informed them to standby. Then, local authorities came on board and informed the crew that they were not allowed to depart as per court orders.
PIA was well aware that the lease of this particular aircraft had not been paid; however, it sent the aircraft to Kuala Lumpur.
And so, it is another blow for the airline after the Pilots licensing scandal of 2020 in which 262 of Pakistan’s 860 active licensed Pilots had been found to have suspicious or fake licenses. The situation prompted a number of countries to ban PK from operating flights in their jurisdictions.
Alas, the airline was banned from flying to the European Union for six months over safety compliance concerns under a ban still in place.
With more than US$4bn in accumulated losses, PIA was already struggling financially when flights were grounded last year due to the pandemic. After it resumed operations in May, a domestic PK Airbus A320 flight crashed in Karachi killing 97 of 99 people on board.
In response to a question about the impoundment issue, Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the Pakistani high commission in Malaysia was in close contact with the relevant Malaysian authorities and PIA “to address the issue at the earliest.”
“Meanwhile, the passengers are being properly looked after and alternate arrangements for their travel to Pakistan have also been finalized,” he said, adding that they will be departing Kuala Lumpur by Emirates flight EK-343 later tonight.”