New air agreement with Saudi set to boost Pakistan's aviation

In this file photo, a Pakistan International Airlines plane prepares to take off at Alama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore. (REUTERS)
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Updated 15 January 2020

New air agreement with Saudi set to boost Pakistan's aviation

  • PIA, Saudi Arabia Airlines will have an equal number of flights in each country
  • Islamabad should revise ASAs with other countries to protect aviation industry, says former CAA chief

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Tuesday approved a revised air service agreement (ASA) with Saudi Arabia to enhance bilateral cooperation in air transportation and safeguard the local aviation industry.

Under the new ASA, the national flag carriers of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will operate an equal number of flights to each country.

“Under the revised agreement, PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) and Saudi Arabia Airlines will entertain equal numbers of flights. This will end the disparity in the numbers of flights of the air carriers in each country,” Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting, told reporters after the cabinet meeting.

Pakistan has air service agreements with 98 countries, covering the numbers of flights, their frequency, seats, landing points, and code-sharing. Bilateral rights differ from country to country and are subject to periodic renegotiation, according to Pakistan’s National Aviation Policy of 2019.

Under the policy, the country wants to review open skies clauses and associated ASAs by renegotiating routes, slots and capacity accorded to foreign airlines that might be discriminatory and disadvantageous to PIA, the national flag carrier.

Pakistan liberalized its aviation sector in 2015 by opening its skies to foreign airlines and increasing the number of international flights, thereby also slicing off a large share of PIA’s revenue.

“We have always urged the government to allow foreign air carriers in Pakistan per market size,” Abdullah Hafeez Khan, general manager for coordination and public affairs at PIA, told Arab News. “When foreign airlines are allowed beyond the natural market growth, it definitely hurts our financial interests.”

The aircraft movement in Pakistan has on average grown by 7.1 percent and passenger traffic by 6.3 percent in the last five years. Air traffic is expected to grow further in view of economic progress and socio-economic stability pursued by the present government, according to the aviation policy.

“Pakistan should pursue a liberalized bilateral policy with other countries on the principle of commercial reciprocity upon organic market growth, numbers of seats and code-sharing to protect the national interest,” Sajid Habib, former director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority, told Arab News.

He said the revised ASA with Saudi Arabia if implemented, would help increase PIA’s revenue to the tune of billions of rupees. “The government needs to review and revise ASAs with other countries as well to protect and boost the local aviation industry,” he added.

Pakistan restrict Bangladesh to 141-5 in Twenty20 opener

Updated 4 min 24 sec ago

Pakistan restrict Bangladesh to 141-5 in Twenty20 opener

  • From Bangladesh side only openers batted with authority
  • Pakistan must win 3-0 to retain world number ranking in the format

Lahore: Inspired by a three-pronged pace attack, Pakistan’s new-look bowling restricted Bangladesh to 141-5 in the first Twenty20 international in Lahore on Friday.
Only openers Mohammad Naim, who hit 43 off 41 and Tamim Iqbal, who made 39 from 34, batted with authority after Bangladesh won the toss and opted to bat on a flat Qaddafi stadium pitch.
Naim smashed two sixes and three boundaries while Iqbal had four boundaries and a six in his knock.
Skipper Mahmudullah chipped in with a quick 14-ball 19 which included two boundaries.
Pakistan handed Twenty20 debuts to pacer Haris Rauf and opener Ahsan Ali in a series they must win 3-0 to retain their world number ranking in the format.
The remaining two matches are also in Lahore, on Saturday and Monday.