After a four year absence, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) yesterday resumed its services to Colombo, with Sri Lanka’s capital served thrice a week from Karachchi.
The re-launch also coincides with the commencement of the 10th ICC Cricket World Cup hosted by Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.
Cricket is a uniting force in both Pakistan and Sri Lanka, lands known for their deep divisions and fissures. Attendance in offices and schools becomes thin in Pakistan and Sri Lanka when their teams are playing in the World Cup.
Pakistan is in Group A in the 10th Cricket World Cup along with the likes of mighty Australia, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand and will play all of its 6 League Matches in Sri Lanka. Pakistan and Sri Lanka will play on 26 February in Colombo.
Sri Lanka will be hosting 12 of the 49 matches in this World-Cup including the fourth quarter final on 26 March 2011 and the first semi-final on 29 March 2011. Both these matches will be held at R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
To make the new services a success, PIA has also launched a special promotion to encourage Pakistanis to fly into Colombo to witness the World Cup matches.
The features of the special PIA World Cup travel package include complimentary airport pick and drop; complimentary stadium pick & drop on match days; accommodation twin sharing bases with bread & breakfast; air-conditioned transport during tours; and city and resort tours with English speaking tour guides. PIA had also promoted the new service extensively in Pakistan.
The airline also expects to serve large numbers of Sri Lankans who work in the oil-rich Middle Eastern countries, especially blue collar workers. These three new PIA weekly flights to Sri Lanka will serve them also, as cost of travelling home from PIA through Karachi is cheaper than taking a direct flight to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka and Pakistan also enjoys strong bilateral trade relations with a Free Trade Agreement signed between the two countries. Sri Lanka supplies more than three-fourths of the ingredients in the paan consumed in Pakistan. Paan is a very popular edible item in Pakistan and these new PIA flights to Sri Lanka will deeply facilitate the brisk trade in this item. Pakistan is also home to the remains of the greatest Buddhist civilisation, the Gandhara Civilisation.
A brainchild of founder of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, PIA or Pakistan International Airlines had had many glorious achievements to its credit in its more than 50 years of existence.
It was the first Asian airline to introduce a pure jet aircraft. In 1962, PIA broke the record for the fastest flight between London and Karachi. In 1964, PIA earned the distinction of becoming the first airline from a non-communist country to fly into the People’s Republic of China. It was the first entity in Pakistan to install an IBM1401 computer in 1966-67.
PIA was the first airline in the world to operate a scheduled helicopter service as well to start an air safari with jet aircraft in 1993-94. PIA was the launch customer of the latest Boeing 777-200LR aircraft and first airline in the world to operate the Boeing 777-200ER, 777-200LR and 777-300ER altogether – all the three variants available on the market at the time.
Most important are the contributions of PIA to the global aviation industry. The birth of Emirates Airline was almost entirely in the mid 1980s. It was PIA which provided a B-737 and an Airbus aircraft for Emirates’ initial flights. The cabin, cockpit and scheduling crews were all borrowed from PIA. Similarly, PIA provided extensive help in the inauguration of Singapore Airlines and Air Malta.
The above are just some of the few glorious achievements of PIA. However, PIA never had it as good as today, thanks to the sterling sales performance in 2010.
The last year has been a glorious year for PIA, as it has crossed the revenue figure of Rs. 100 billion for the first time in its history. The airline realised a combined seat factor on its domestic and international routes which is the highest in the last 34 years. The revenue target set for 2011 is Rs. 133 billion, which is 22% higher than 2010 sales revenues.