PIA hub in Turkey to compete with Gulf airlines

DUBAI:Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plans to set up its first regional hub in Turkey to expand its worldwide network to compete with Gulf-based carriers, its top official said on Thursday.Pakistan’s national flag carrier recently signed an agreement with Turkish Airlines to offer a wide range of facilities to one-stop passengers bound for Europe and the United States.“We have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Turkish Airlines to expand our network to more than 130 destinations worldwide,” Captain Mohammad Aijaz Haroon, Managing Director of PIA told Khaleej Times in a telephonic interview from Karachi.He said the agreement is subject to approval from the two governments and will be implemented by the end of March. “We will expand our network and introduce new destinations with the help of Turkish Airlines in summer schedule by March,” he said.

Analysts said the deal is expected to boost seat factor of PIA, which is estimated at 76 per cent during 2010 despite the difficult times in the wake of global financial crisis.In reply to a question, Capt Haroon said Gulf-based carriers are also interested in having a similar deal with PIA, but Turkish Airlines offers better options. “We get the Turkish Airlines business for its East-bound passengers and the Gulf airlines will never offer those kind of benefits to us,” he said.Capt Haroon, who assumed the charge of PIA Managing Director in May 2008, said Etihad Airways, Gulf Air and other Middle East airlines have also shown their interest to expand cooperation with PIA. “Etihad Airways delegation is soon coming to Pakistan to discuss similar kind of deal,” he said.Dispelling the impression that PIA will no more fly to Europe and the US after the deal, Capt Haroon said PIA will continue its direct flights to Europe, the US and other key destinations in the West.

“Turkish Airlines will only take New York and Chicago routes from PIA and we will continue to operate our direct flights to other US cities, all over the United Kingdom, France, Oslo and other destinations,” he explained.Capt Haroon, who has over 30 years of airline experience, said MoU signed recently is more than a code-sharing deal between the two airlines.“PIA passengers now will have access to more than 130 destinations through Istanbul hub and they can avail even daily service for more than 100 destinations in Europe, the US and South America.”He said the deal is a win-win situation for both the airlines as PIA will take the Turkish Airlines passengers bound for the destinations in East.“Karachi will be Turkish Airlines hub and we will accommodate their passengers for Colombo, Dhaka and other destinations in the East,” Capt Haroon said.In reply to a question, Capt Haroon said there will be 21 weekly flights between Karachi and Istanbul to transit passengers of the two airlines. “Out of these 21 flights, PIA will operate 14 while the rest seven by Turkish Airlines,” he said.

He said the alliance with Turkish Airlines will directly affect the Gulf-based airlines as PIA passengers bound for remote destinations in the West will use the Istanbul hub rather than changing airlines in Dubai.“Its an important deal that will expand our network in Europe and the US. We cannot think of building that kind of network for our passengers even in the next five years due to our limited resources and recession in the aviation industry,” he said.The airline earned an operating profit of Rs3 billion during 2009 and its revenues rose to Rs80 billion. The national flag carrier is expecting up to 25 per cent growth in revenues to cross Rs100 billion mark in 2010.“We will soon introduce new destinations or increase more flights in the East to expand our network mainly to compete the Gulf airlines,” Capt Haroon concluded – Kahleejnews