Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is facing a critical financial crisis, prompting the grounding of several aircraft due to difficulties in securing funds. This crisis has resulted in arrears with various stakeholders, including creditors, aircraft lessors, fuel suppliers, insurers, and airport operators. Boeing and Airbus are also on the verge of discontinuing spare parts supply by mid-September.
The Ministry of Aviation has urgently requested a cash injection of Rs23 billion and the suspension of duties, taxes, and service charges, although no concrete business plan has been presented. The restructuring of PIA is expected to be a complex eight-month process, and the airline must remain operational during this period for divestment to yield a fair value.
Regrettably, PIA serves only a small fraction of Pakistan’s population while consuming significant public funds. The government, holding a 92 per cent share in PIA, faces mounting losses attributed to competition, mismanagement, and inadequate funding for fleet expansion.
As of December 31, 2022, PIA’s debt and liabilities stood at Rs743 billion, five times more than its assets’ total value. The airline’s annual losses reached Rs86.5 billion for the last financial year, with projections indicating debt and losses could further rise.
According to Dawn, previous attempts to make PIA sustainable through cost-cutting and fleet expansion have failed. Alternately, efforts focused on financial, legal, and operational restructuring to attract private investment have been explored but not implemented.
In June 2023, a decision was made to restructure PIA based on the Dubai Islamic Bank Consortium Report. This involves creating a new holding company to retain legacy loans and non-aviation assets while keeping PIACL subsidiaries intact. Recent legal restrictions hindering private investment have been lifted.
However, the restructuring plan is pending government approval. The Aviation Division has requested Rs23 billion in funds and relief from various financial obligations. A separate panel has been formed to assess the restructuring plan, with support from the finance ministry and the State Bank of Pakistan expected once the plan is fully finalised.