Flying higher: PIA aims to be country’s first to offer Wi-fi, phone service

Published: December 10, 2013
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Foreign and domestic private airlines have slowly eaten into PIA’s passenger traffic. PHOTO: FILE

Foreign and domestic private airlines have slowly eaten into PIA’s passenger traffic. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: 

Passengers of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will soon be able to use phone, check emails and watch latest movies on board as the air carrier will upgrade its in-flight entertainment system on long-haul flights.

Initially, the facilities – Wi-fi and phone service being introduced for the first time by a Pakistani carrier – will be offered on PIA’s nine Boeing 777s, which have been deployed on longer routes to Europe, US and Canada, said Managing Director Junaid Yunus.

“We are making every effort to improve the product,” he told The Express Tribune. “Seats and carpets in the planes are being replaced with new ones and special emphasis will be placed on cleanliness.”

Some of the specialised firms providing satellite communication services have already expressed their interest in working with PIA. But the national flag carrier will shortly issue a tender to meet the regulatory requirement.

Yunus said the airline on its own cannot manage the entertainment system effectively. “For example, the Wi-fi system is very expensive to replace or upgrade.”

PIA’s management has finally realised that it cannot woo passengers without offering them better service compared with other carriers, especially on long-haul flights.

The desire to upgrade in-flight entertainment service follows Yunus’ insistence that long-range B-777s will be used only for international flights to make the trips financially viable.

“The 15-hour flight to Toronto is tiring and passengers need to relax,” he said. “We are just trying to make sure that their journey is safe as well as comfortable.”

Foreign and domestic private airlines have slowly eaten into PIA’s passenger traffic. PIA’s share in international passenger traffic from Pakistan came down to 35% in 2012-13 from 43% in 2007-08.

While Pakistan has air services agreements with 45 countries, PIA flies to just a handful of them because of shortage of aircraft.

Still, it is widely believed in the industry that PIA benefits from one of the world’s most loyal brand following. “I am convinced that our point-to-point service will help us take our share back from other carriers,” Yunus said, referring to direct international flights without any stopovers.

PIA recently inducted four B-737s on wet lease to make sure it can spare bigger 777s for international destinations. The airline has also received government’s nod to induct narrow-body aircraft on dry lease next year.

According to Startrax, the leading air travel rating service provider, PIA is a three-star airline, placing it along with Air India, Kuwait Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Southwest. The customer reviews offer some insight into the passenger experience.

“The meal was fantastic! Inflight entertainment screens were about to be switched on when all the passengers realised only 10 out of 200 screens were working! We had no entertainment for seven hours. Always bring an Ipad, Ipod or entertainment device with you,” wrote Huzayfah Alam, who travelled from London Heathrow to Islamabad on PIA’s B-777-200ER in July.

In almost every other review, passengers have complained about non-existent in-flight entertainment.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (47)

  • Nadir
    Dec 10, 2013 - 1:03AM

    Really: ” it is widely believed in the industry that PIA benefits from one of the world’s most loyal brand following” – hopefully the people who believe this dont run PIA.

    And its Skytrax, not Startrax.

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  • King Kong
    Dec 10, 2013 - 1:22AM

    According to Startrax, the leading air travel rating service provider, PIA is a three-star airline, placing it along with Air India, Kuwait Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Southwest.”
    What nonsense! People working for Startrax should be fired for misreporting and having horrible rating mechanisms. I can see PIA being comparable to Air India, Kuwait Airways, and Saudi Arabian Airlines. But Southwest, really??? Southwest is one of the largest airlines in the United States and operates more than 3000 flights daily. It has a fleet of more than 550 airplanes and is one of the most sought after airline in the US. It is also the only US airline that has been profitable for more than 25 years consecutively. Its revenue is close to $17 billion annually.
    How can anyone compare PIA to Southwest? ET, please do some research and check your facts and sources before publishing your ‘stories’.

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  • AAH
    Dec 10, 2013 - 1:39AM

    PIA has become an dysfunctional airline with very bad passenger service and it needs to be sold to save the nation from paying for the losses.

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  • Zif
    Dec 10, 2013 - 2:31AM

    Inflight entertainment screens were about to be switched on when all the passengers realised only 10 out of 200 screens were working!
    110% true. Such is the situation everytime I have travelled on PIA. Once mirculously the system was working, I asked the steward to give me the earphones and his reply was “you see we have forgotten the earphones on the ground.”.Wow! 35000ft in the sky, I was back to the Charlie Chaplin era of silent movies, thanks to PIA.

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  • A. Khan
    Dec 10, 2013 - 2:36AM

    The last thing I need on an airplane is someone sitting next to me and “surreptitiously” watching porn on his laptop OR yapping away inanely on his mobile on a flight from Islamabad to Karachi.

    Let’s have some peace and quiet from internet and mobile phones, at least in the air.

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  • Insanitie
    Dec 10, 2013 - 2:53AM

    It would be much better if they actually provided working TV sets, Better seats, Cheaper tickets, Better food and other services that even run of the mill airlines across the globe provide that PIA clearly lacks.

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  • ironMan!
    Dec 10, 2013 - 2:55AM

    Goodluck PIA – always feel comfortable to fly in a national carrier! Pls improve services

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  • Nadir
    Dec 10, 2013 - 3:22AM

    @KingKong: Southwest is a budget airline. Doesnt score high on customer service.

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  • SyedPk
    Dec 10, 2013 - 3:43AM

    According to Startrax, the leading air travel rating service provider

    The name is SKYTRAX not STARTRAX

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  • MA
    Dec 10, 2013 - 4:31AM

    @King Kong:
    i guess you forgot to mention that Southwest is a budget airline whereas PIA isn’t.

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  • Shoaib
    Dec 10, 2013 - 5:27AM

    @KIng Kong: Southwest only serves peanuts and crackers for meals, they make their revenue being a low cost service provider. You don’t get the PIA buryanis in Southwest planes :) Good luck PIA

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  • raptor
    Dec 10, 2013 - 7:06AM

    Tired of hearing from the same people criticizing over and over again. Let me remind you something. There is a new government. During 6 months of PML-N government, it has been decided to privatize 26% of the shares. Furthermore, 4 new Boeing 737-800 have been delivered and up to 10 Airbus A320 are leased and will be delivered in early next year. During PPP’s 5 year rule no new aircraft were inducted. Do not forget the recent Haj season brought PIA to new record and the overall institution’s loss has been reduced from 3.5 billion to 1.5 per month. Now if they want to improve services whats the problem. Isn’t that a right step in the right direction ?

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  • water bottle
    Dec 10, 2013 - 7:09AM

    “Passengers of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will soon be able to use phone, check emails and watch latest movies on board as the air carrier will upgrade its in-flight entertainment system on long-haul flights.”

    Are these being offered along with functioning airplanes, sober pilots, less than 2 hours of delays and no-crash-landings?

    then wonderful!

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  • Ahmed
    Dec 10, 2013 - 7:33AM

    @A. Khan:
    So much for a 2 hour flight! Complain a bit too much?!

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  • JA
    Dec 10, 2013 - 8:28AM

    And what about the aged hostesses? some of them must be at the age of grandma.

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  • Ozair
    Dec 10, 2013 - 9:17AM

    Dear PIA Management

    Kindly first focus on the On-Time arrivals and Departures before embarking on these ambitious plans !

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  • Sohraab
    Dec 10, 2013 - 9:55AM

    PIA, despite all the negative rankings, somehow still manages to attract new customers and has kept its loyal customers intact. This is a huge plus point in todays world as consumers are no longer Loyal to the Brands and all the Big corporations spend millions of dollars only on customer Loyalty Programs / campaigns.
    P.I.A does not need to re-invent the wheel, just look back and learn from its fantastic history, how PIA helped EMIRATES AIRLINES, the first Sub-Continent Airline to introduce Long haul Jet Aircrafts in the region, had the best Air Crew, the best media campaigns in the Asian Continent, best dining experience etc.etc. It needs serious management, a trimmed down sharp staff and I am positive that this precious Airline of ours will be back on its feet again in no time. During my travels, I feel so proud and happy whenever I see a PIA aircraft at leading European Terminals.
    God Bless P.I.A.

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  • Mohammad
    Dec 10, 2013 - 10:16AM

    Stop bashing PIA: Why are you complaining, why not traveling by other airlines like Etihad, Emirates? where all 200 screens will be ON…. because you want CHEAP flights…

    PIA doesn’t charge as high as any other airline of the world….they give at least two free changes to your tickets, no one offer this…. their inflight services are greatly improved with new, young staff, they give you more baggage allowance than ANY AIRLINE OF THE WORLD.. they make you feel homely… you won’t get PIA’s tasty food anywhere else.. you can speak, talk and ask for help in your own National Language… You must feel safe as you are traveling with finest pilots of the world and most experienced and old airline of the world… A lot of improvement is needed, yes but PIA is still one of the finest airline in the world. The feelings and pride of helping your own airline, your own countrymen and your own people… if you have feelings!

    Last but not the least! THERE IS NO AIRLINE IN THE WORLD, AND I MEAN IT.. WHICH OFFER FREE INTERNATIONAL CALLS TO THEIR HEADQUATERS FROM UK, USA, CANADA, UAE, KSA… PIA DOES THAT, OFFER FREE CALLS FROM THESE COUNTRIES TO THEIR HEADQUATERS/CALL CENTER IN KARACHI.

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  • Mohammad
    Dec 10, 2013 - 10:54AM

    10% discount to Senior citizens age 65+
    10% discount to students, 15% discount if students are group of 10 on all international flights
    20% discount to students, 40% discount if students are group of 10 and accompanying teacher
    Free delivery of tickets to your doorsteps
    Pay by Easypaisa scheme

    No one else offer this!

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  • MAD
    Dec 10, 2013 - 11:15AM

    @King Kong: SouthWest is ano frills low cost carrier. thats why its three star. teh rating is for facilities offerred to passengers not airline performance and profitability.

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  • Asif Sheikh
    Dec 10, 2013 - 12:09PM

    @King Kong:
    It can be compared to Southwest not on basis of operations but on the quality of service. Southwest is a no-frills airline meaning it doesn’t serve meals or provide entertainment and any food available is for on-board purchase. This rating is based on the level of customer service which if equal to Southwest, is pretty embarrassing
    .

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  • Ahmed
    Dec 10, 2013 - 12:14PM

    @Mohammad:
    Fine, your loyalties are with PIA and PIA is the finest according to you but that does not take away the fact that PIA loses millions, if not more, every month!

    You sure would want to support your national airline but if that means supporting a corrupt organization unwilling to mend it’s ways, bleeding into our collective wealth than NO! By the way, it is perfectly alright to demand a proper working in-flight entertainment system! You pay for the services, right? By the same logic, what if an engine doesn’t work?! Will you say the same nonsense that PIA doesn’t charge as much and it is your national airline? At the end of the day, it is not the amount of luggage you can carry, it is getting from point A to B safely!

    By the way, it is impolite to shout. Thanks.

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  • Dec 10, 2013 - 12:56PM

    When you got everything – Best Pilots, Crews, staff, ect – then you just need a sincere efforts to be put on, which PML (N) govt. has just shown. Please give it sometime to revive. Good Luck)

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  • Alam
    Dec 10, 2013 - 1:23PM

    @King Kong:
    ET means the kind of facilities they are providing has been ranked and i personally feel frankly to be unbiased that yes PIA and South West comes in the same category viewing the facilities they are offering in flight and the conditions of aeroplanes. Even i will give PIA extra marks for the food they are offering comparing to south west peanuts :).

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  • Parvez
    Dec 10, 2013 - 2:13PM

    First get the airline out of the RED……….

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  • Baba Ji
    Dec 10, 2013 - 3:18PM

    Yeah … if they get airborne !!!

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  • Kid
    Dec 10, 2013 - 3:45PM

    I only need better food…..and good looking hostesses if possible…case closed…Recommend

  • Mehru
    Dec 10, 2013 - 4:20PM

    *I think PIA is better than some of the USA. they offer you nothing during fly. you are not allowed to take food outside the airport. so I think PIA gives us fair rates and reasonable services *Recommend

  • Onaiza
    Dec 10, 2013 - 5:27PM

    Don’t need wifi.

    Need staff that knows how to treat passengers with respect and not as a liability!

    Male staff should know the difference between courtesy and flirtation.

    Food ………… please take pointers from Qatar and Emirates!!!

    Need earphones to listen to the movie I am watching.

    The washrooms should not get flooded two hours in to the flight!

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  • expaki
    Dec 10, 2013 - 5:49PM

    @AAH: “PIA has become an dysfunctional airline with very bad passenger service and it needs to be sold.” But who will buy this scrape?

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  • Ashkenazi
    Dec 10, 2013 - 6:04PM

    I am assuming the honest paying travelers and tax payer will foot the bill for free calls by public servants, army personnel, ruling party relatives and well wishers.

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  • goldconsumer
    Dec 10, 2013 - 6:37PM

    I hope these services are not used by our great pilots! Only God can then save the passengers

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  • Ghulam Murtaza
    Dec 10, 2013 - 6:43PM

    Will they allow youtube on these flights i wonder

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  • Saqueb
    Dec 10, 2013 - 6:48PM

    @Mohammad: since when did PIA started charging less then the other airlines? Abu Dhabi – Karachi – Abu Dhabi flight was priced at 750 AED whereas Etihad was offering the same for 550 AED and Etihad only has one flight to Khi. Another example DXB-KHI-DXB flight 1300 AED whereas Emirates 980 AED and i got it changed twice. last but not least KHI-LHR-KHI economy class ticket priced at 95K PKR whereas Qatar offered for 67K and Emirates 81K. Now lets talk abt service and aircrafts, Karachi Toronto flight, one of the longest one. on the whole journey the AC of the aircraft was not working.

    lets be realistic, just because in some instances their prices are low and they give 40kg baggage allowance that doesnt mean we cant criticise them. i would happily pay for them even with 20kg baggage if they can fly on time, provide proper food, make sure their AC’s are working, make sure their aircrafts are maintained and last but not least make sure that their pilots are not drunk before the flight.

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  • khan
    Dec 10, 2013 - 6:53PM

    first remove flies in plans than Wi-fi system I was ashamed when I see flies on international flights.

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  • Chief
    Dec 10, 2013 - 9:17PM

    Offer Wifi??

    This is the biggest joke i have heard. If they offered screens that actually worked that would be a bonus.
    And plus could you imagine half of the passengers shouting into their mobile phones.

    PIA start with the basics first.

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  • Huzayfah Alam
    Dec 10, 2013 - 9:26PM

    Thank you for adding my review of London to Islamabad :D

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  • A. Khan
    Dec 10, 2013 - 9:51PM

    @Ahmed: You must be one of the annoying individuals who likes to chat needlessly on mobile phones. I certainly hope you don’t watch the other stuff I mentioned.Recommend

  • A. Khan
    Dec 10, 2013 - 9:54PM

    @Mohammad: PIA is as expensive as other airlines with dirty aircraft and sullen air crew. The only reason for using PIA is that it flies direct to Pakistan whereas all the others you mention require stop overs in Middle East.

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  • AN
    Dec 11, 2013 - 12:00AM

    @King Kong All of your points regarding Southwest are valid, however you failed to mention that Southwest is a low cost carrier, offering all economy service with no meals or sandwiches. People fly Southwest primarily because of the low cost of their air fares. Southwest has done a great job performing that role profitably.

    Skytrax rates service and not financials of a company, that is rated by rating services such as Moodys and Standard & Poors.

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  • Imtiaz
    Dec 11, 2013 - 2:12PM

    The only way PIA can gain any of the ” Pakistani” passengers back is by lowering the rates, Most Pakistani’s don’t give “much” about WiFi, or phone or even TV for that matter, living in the UAE the only two things i look for while browsing for tickets to and from Pakistan is the price and maximum allowed luggage weight.

    PIA rates are mostly similar to or even higher than the likes of Emirates / Etihad, and people resort to budget carriers.

    Maybe PIA should have their own budget carrier wing to take back some of the lost market.

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  • Raheel
    Dec 11, 2013 - 4:41PM

    pia is over=stuffed with peoples party appointed people mostly from interior sind who mostly are interested in corruption and are totally incompetent

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  • Dec 11, 2013 - 6:04PM

    Who will be their IFEC supplier?

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  • Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany
    Dec 11, 2013 - 6:11PM

    PIA, please give us clean toilets and fresh meals (not three day old leftovers). Who wants Wi-Fi on the plane? These are luxuries we don’t want. Teach your staff (ladies) to smile instead.

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  • King Kong
    Dec 11, 2013 - 8:42PM

    Thanks to all those who replied and reminded me that Southwest is a budget airline, which it is. Also, thanks to those who clarified that Skytrax or Startrax rates airlines on the facilities offered – point taken.
    The whole notion that Southwest is a budget airline and does not score high on service is not true. Southwest happens to be an extremely customer-friendly and customer-focused airline; in fact its customer service is highly commendable. Also, many people pointed to the fact that Southwest only offers peanuts and crackers in its flights and not biryani. Well that is true but none of the US airlines (domestically) offer any meals, most offer in-flight snacks mostly peanuts and crackers. Trust me, I love biryani but I’d rather fly Southwest that saves me money, gets me to my destination on or before time, and ensures my safety. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for PIA and I’m not going to fly an airline just for the biryani itself. If I can hop on a cheaper airline and get there earlier, I can use the saved funds for biryani from any restaurant of my liking. But then to each his own. Choose biryani or getting there on time (the whole point of flying).

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  • noonsidd
    Dec 14, 2013 - 2:33AM

    i think certain sites will be blocked @Ghulam Murtaza:
    @goldconsumer:

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  • noonsidd
    Dec 14, 2013 - 2:40AM

    this service is not for short flights but however ur rigt as much as i would like to whatsapp and fb on flight i don’t think i stand someone yapping away loudly on skype viber tango . maybe certain services will not be aloud to log in for passenger peace and harmony heheheeheh still im loving the idea of whatsap and fb.@A. Khan:

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