KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has diversified its operations from air travel to railway service for the passengers flying to select western countries – the UK, Spain, Norway and Canada.
“PIA has announced a new partnership with AccesRail, the world’s leading provider of air-rail intermodal solutions,” said PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan.
The partnership will allow PIA to use AccesRail’s expertise to enable its customers book train tickets in the UK, Spain, Norway and Canada by using PIA’s booking platform or through travel agent Global Distribution System.
The airline has arranged code-sharing with the company, which will take PIA passengers to their next destinations after departing from the airport.
“We are increasing connectivity of the national airline,” the spokesperson told The Express Tribune.
For instance, PIA only flies to Barcelona in Spain and after that if travellers want to go to other cities in the country, they can travel via train to these destinations with the same ticket.
This new arrangement, according to the spokesperson, provides convenient and easy rail/bus connections at PIA’s key gateways in the UK, Europe and Canada, enabling passengers to reach cities and destinations other than those served by PIA and to reach end-destinations seamlessly with the best fares available as per desired itinerary and the same ticket.
Although the travellers can buy train tickets separately, it will cost them more compared to PIA’s code-sharing deal with AccesRail.
Trains are common in western countries where one needs to book the ticket in advance, otherwise, it either will not be available or will be a great deal expensive.
PIA passengers will be able to connect to and from their international flights onto a number of rail/bus routes operated by major railway/bus companies in combination with PIA’s operating flights.
Transport providers include Renfe in Spain, Via Rail Canada, VI in Norway and Great Western Railways and Avanti West Coast in the UK.
This partnership also includes the luxury coach routes in the UK operated by National Express to major British towns and cities from London’s Heathrow Airport and from Manchester Airport.
The passengers will be able to touch four points through PIA.
“The step is part of PIA’s policy of increasing its connectivity,” said the spokesperson.
The arrangement is similar to that of Turkish Airlines, which serves 200 destinations, although it directly goes to only 80 to 90 destinations and the rest are just code-sharing destinations and this is how it has become one of the biggest airlines.
“According to the new PIA policy, it will increase the number of destinations without opening new routes on its own. It already has a code-sharing deal with Etihad Airways and Turkish Airlines,” he said.
“PIA has targeted 10% of total sales through code-sharing over the next three to four years,” he said. So far, it has achieved 3% of sales with Etihad Airways.
“This is not a much ambitious goal and we will achieve it soon,” he added.
PIA has recently made the same arrangement with Cham Wings, which is based in Syria and a new entrant into Pakistan’s aviation industry. PIA does not fly to Damascus, the capital of Syria, so both the companies will share their codes.
“This is possible due to the Aviation Policy 2019 as the policy facilitates these kinds of arrangements,” said Khan.
“With Cham Wings, our network will expand without investing in new destinations, which is a win-win situation for both the parties.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2020.