Is PIA on the Brink of a New Era?

Abhishek Nayar

09 Jul 2024

The privatization of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is generating significant interest as six entities and consortia have pre-qualified to bid for a stake in the national carrier. The eligible bidders include:

  • AirBlue
  • Arif Habib Corporation
  • Blue World City
  • Fly Jinnah
  • Pak Ethanol Consortium
  • YB Holdings Consortium

This month, these potential investors are meticulously inspecting PIA's assets and infrastructure. However, not all interested parties made the cut. Sardar Ashraf D Baluch Builders and Gerry’s International were ruled out—Gerry's due to financial instability and Sardar due to concerns over an unverified Chinese partner.

The Government’s Privatization Plan

The government of Pakistan, which currently owns around 96% of PIA's shares, plans to sell at least 51% of them, along with management rights, to a private entity. This strategic move is aimed at revamping the struggling airline and possibly restoring its lost glory. Despite initial hopes that a foreign operator or a Gulf-based sovereign wealth fund would take control, the current bidders are all domestic entities.

Detailed Stages of the Privatization Process

The entire privatization process is expected to span up to five years and is divided into three stages:

  • First Stage: Expected to be completed within one year.
  • Second Stage: Estimated to take between one to three years.
  • Third Stage: Planned to extend from three to five years.

Federal Minister for Privatization Abdul Aleem Khan highlighted that delays in this process have already cost the treasury PKR 850 billion (USD 3.05 billion), though specific data to support this claim was not provided.

Challenges on the Horizon

The path to privatization is fraught with challenges. One significant hurdle is the European Commission's ongoing airspace and airport ban on Pakistani-registered carriers. PIA had anticipated this ban would be lifted, which would have allowed the airline to resume flights to major destinations such as Paris CDG and London Heathrow. The ban, which is costing PIA an estimated PKR 40 billion (USD 144 million) annually in lost revenue, adds a layer of complexity to the privatization process and impacts the airline's value.

Engaging with the Bidders

Government officials have been proactive in addressing concerns raised by the bidders, particularly regarding the flight ban and its implications on PIA's valuation. These discussions are crucial as they aim to provide clarity and foster confidence among the potential investors.

What’s Next for PIA?

As the bidding process advances, the Privatization Commission will determine the exact number of shares to be sold, which could range from 51% to 100%. This decision will be made closer to the conclusion of the disposal process. The eventual sale of PIA is poised to mark a significant transformation for the airline, potentially ushering in a new era of efficiency and profitability.


The privatization of PIA stands at a critical juncture, with domestic entities leading the charge to acquire a majority stake in the airline. The outcome of this process will not only shape the future of PIA but also impact Pakistan's aviation industry. As the nation watches closely, the hope is that this privatization will pave the way for a revitalized and competitive national carrier.

With Inputs from ch-aviation

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Air India and Vistara Expedite Merger Amid Regulatory Review

Abhishek Nayar

09 Jul 2024

In a significant move towards consolidating its aviation business, the Tata Group is expediting the merger of Air India and Vistara. This strategic consolidation aims to streamline operations, leverage synergies, and reduce duplications to overcome the substantial financial loss of Rs 15,532 crore posted in FY23.

Harmonizing Training Requirements: A New Approach

Traditionally, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) mandates comprehensive crossover training for pilots and cabin crew switching airlines or aircraft types. This rigorous process can take up to a month, involving ground and simulator classes, followed by around 25 hours of supervised flight.

However, Tata-owned airlines are proposing a different approach. With the manuals of both Air India and Vistara harmonized, the airlines suggest a brief, focused training course for Vistara crew transitioning to Air India. This course will primarily be delivered through short-term online training modules to address the minimal procedural variations, supplemented by instructor-led sessions for thorough reinforcement.

DGCA's Review: Ensuring Safety and Compliance

The DGCA is currently reviewing the harmonized manuals before granting approval for the reduced training requirements. The aviation regulator's primary concern is ensuring that all personnel are adequately familiar with safety procedures, including emergency protocols, which can vary between airlines despite similarities in aircraft.

The Bigger Picture: Tata Group's Aviation Strategy

The expedited merger is part of Tata Group's broader restructuring plan to consolidate its airline business. Earlier, Air India Express and AirAsia India were merged to form a no-frills airline. Now, the focus is on merging Air India and Vistara to compete robustly in the full-service segment.

Air India CEO Campbell Wilson has indicated that while the integration is targeted for completion by the end of this year, customer-facing elements, including Vistara's brand identity, will remain unchanged until 2025.

The Role of Singapore Airlines: Strengthening Market Presence

Singapore Airlines, holding a 25.1 percent stake in the merged entity, views this merger as an opportunity to strengthen its presence in the world's third-largest aviation market. This strategic stake will provide Singapore Airlines with a substantial foothold in India's booming aviation industry.

Operational Transition: Key Dates and Processes

Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan announced that the transfer of employees from Vistara to Air India will commence on July 17. The transition involves meticulous planning and coordination to ensure smooth integration.

Consulting Expertise: Guiding the Merger

Several leading consultants, including BCG, Sabre, and Oliver Wyman, have been enlisted to facilitate the merger. Their expertise covers harmonizing the workforce, aligning route networks, and standardizing business practices, ensuring a seamless transition and operational efficiency.

Conclusion: A New Era for Tata's Aviation Business

As Tata Group pushes forward with the merger, the aviation industry watches closely. The successful integration of Air India and Vistara will not only redefine Tata's position in the market but also set new benchmarks for efficiency and service excellence in the Indian aviation sector.

This strategic consolidation, coupled with innovative training approaches and expert guidance, marks a new era for Tata's aviation business, promising a stronger, more competitive presence in the global aviation landscape.

With Inputs from Business World

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Is the Future of Turkish Airlines' A320 Fleet in Jeopardy Due to Engine Issues?

Abhishek Nayar

09 Jul 2024

Earlier this week, Turkish Airlines announced it had reached a compensation agreement with International Aero Engines (IAE). This settlement aims to address the operational disruptions and financial losses caused by the persistent issues with Pratt & Whitney's PW1100G-JM engines, used on the airline's A320 family aircraft.

The Engine Dilemma

For over a year, problems with Pratt & Whitney's PW1100G-JM engines have plagued operators worldwide, including Turkish Airlines. These issues have forced airlines to ground numerous Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft, causing significant operational disruptions. Turkish Airlines, which operates 58 aircraft powered by the affected engine type, has seen around 20 of these planes grounded.

Global Impact and Compensation Efforts

The global scale of disruption due to the engine issues has prompted other airlines, such as Spirit Airlines and Air Astana, to secure compensation agreements with IAE to cover their operational costs. The A320neo is the backbone of short and medium-haul operations for many airlines globally, and the impact extends to over 50 airlines and leasing operators worldwide.

The affected engines, manufactured between 2015 and 2021, number over 3,000, requiring inspection and potential repairs. With the rise in passenger demand post-pandemic, airlines are in dire need of operational capacity, leading them to take creative measures to mitigate the impact of grounded A320s.

Strategies to Cope with Grounded Aircraft

To handle the operational challenges, airlines are adopting various strategies. Some carriers are modifying their schedules to minimize disruptions, while others are leasing additional aircraft or extending the service life of their older planes. For instance, German carrier Lufthansa has continued operating its older A320-200s to ensure sufficient capacity, anticipating that up to 20 of its newer A320neo aircraft could be out of service at any given time.

Long-Term Implications

It is estimated that until 2026, over 300 A320 aircraft will be affected annually as engine manufacturers conduct inspections to ensure safety. The main issue lies in the potential for microscopic cracks to form on the engine's high-pressure turbine disks due to a rare problem with the powdered metal used in their construction. While Pratt & Whitney assures that this is not an immediate threat, the engines must undergo inspection ahead of the planned maintenance schedule.

The Path Forward for Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines' compensation agreement with IAE is a significant step in addressing the immediate operational disruptions. However, the long-term implications for the airline and the global aviation industry remain uncertain. With ongoing inspections and potential repairs, airlines must continue to adapt their operations to ensure they can meet rising passenger demands while maintaining safety and efficiency.


The issues with Pratt & Whitney's PW1100G-JM engines have caused widespread disruptions across the aviation industry, impacting airlines like Turkish Airlines significantly. While compensation agreements provide some relief, the industry faces ongoing challenges as it navigates the complexities of maintaining and operating a large fleet of affected aircraft. As the situation evolves, airlines will need to remain flexible and innovative to ensure their operations continue smoothly and safely.

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S7 Airlines Grapples with Engine Woes and Kremlin Policies

Abhishek Nayar

06 Jul 2024

Russia's aviation sector is facing significant challenges, with S7 Airlines at the center of a storm involving grounded aircraft, Western sanctions, and controversial government policies. Dmitry Yadrov, head of Russia’s civil aviation regulator (Rosaviatsiya), has confirmed that S7 Airlines is struggling to keep its fleet of Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft operational due to difficulties maintaining their Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engines. Additionally, S7 Airlines opposes a Kremlin plan to fund airport reconstruction through airline revenues, a move that could lead to higher ticket prices for passengers.

Engine Troubles Ground S7’s Fleet

Western Sanctions Take a Toll

S7 Airlines' ability to maintain its fleet has been severely hampered by Western sanctions, which have disrupted the supply of essential parts for the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engines powering their Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft. Yadrov disclosed to the Russian news agency TASS on July 1 that these maintenance issues could impact overall passenger numbers in Russia, with forecasts predicting a 7% decline to 98.1 million passengers this year.

A Growing Fleet of Grounded Aircraft

According to data from the ch-aviation fleets module, S7 Airlines operates thirty-one A320-200Ns, of which fifteen are currently grounded, an increase from five nine months ago. All four A321-200Ns and four A321-200NXs are also grounded. The inability to perform necessary repairs on these aircraft has forced S7 to trim its winter schedule by 10-15% compared to the previous year.

Opposition to Kremlin’s Airport Reconstruction Plan

Financial Burden on Airlines

In a separate development, S7 Airlines has voiced its opposition to a Kremlin initiative to rebuild airport runways and terminals using funds sourced from airline revenues. This plan involves creating the Air Transport Infrastructure Fund, which will be financed by increased air navigation fees for airlines. S7 Airlines and Aeroflot have both warned that this additional financial burden will ultimately be passed on to passengers through higher ticket prices.

Rising Costs and Potential Impacts

S7 Airlines highlighted that airport costs have already risen significantly in recent years, particularly at airports where new terminals have been constructed. An S7 spokesperson told RBK that since November 2022, air navigation fees have increased by 76%, and further increases could lead to a general rise in air ticket prices across the market. Aeroflot echoed these concerns, emphasizing that passengers would bear the cost of the proposed fund.

Legal Battles on the Horizon

S7 Airlines vs. Tsifra Broker

Amid these operational challenges and policy disputes, S7 Airlines is also embroiled in a legal battle. The Moscow Arbitration Court is set to hear a claim from S7 Airlines against Tsifra Broker, a Moscow-based investment firm, for RUB1 billion (USD11.16 million) on July 10. The case pertains to alleged losses stemming from Tsifra Broker's improper performance of obligations related to the acquisition of shares and depositary receipts in the technology company Yandex NV.


As S7 Airlines navigates the dual challenges of grounded aircraft and contentious government policies, the impact on Russia's aviation sector remains uncertain. With passenger numbers projected to fall and legal battles looming, the coming months will be critical in determining the future trajectory of both S7 Airlines and the broader industry. Passengers, meanwhile, brace for potential increases in ticket prices as airlines grapple with these multifaceted issues.

With Inputs from ch-aviation

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Biman Bangladesh' Ambitious Expansion

Abhishek Nayar

06 Jul 2024

Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the national flag carrier of Bangladesh, is embarking on an ambitious journey to nearly double its fleet size over the next 11 years. The newly appointed Managing Director and CEO, Mohammad Jahidul Islam Bhuiyan, who took the helm in May 2024, has laid out an extensive plan that aims to expand the airline's fleet from the current 21 aircraft to 47 by 2035. This strategic move marks a significant investment in new aircraft, positioning Biman for substantial growth and enhanced global presence.

Fleet Expansion Plan

Current Fleet and Future Needs

As of now, Biman Bangladesh Airlines operates a fleet of 21 aircraft. However, six of these aircraft are slated to be phased out by 2035 due to age and operational efficiency considerations. To achieve the target of 47 aircraft, Bhuiyan's plan includes the acquisition of an additional 32 aircraft. This expansion is essential for the airline's route development and overall growth strategy.

Recent Acquisitions

In a recent development, Biman's board has approved the acquisition of four Airbus A350-900s, securing funding through the UK's Export Finance scheme. This acquisition is a significant step towards modernizing the fleet and enhancing passenger experience with state-of-the-art aircraft.

Strategic Partnerships: Airbus and Boeing

Airbus Advancements

Discussions with Airbus have progressed significantly, highlighting a strong potential partnership for future acquisitions. The A350-900s, known for their fuel efficiency and long-range capabilities, are set to play a pivotal role in Biman's fleet enhancement strategy. These aircraft will not only improve operational efficiency but also offer passengers a more comfortable and modern flying experience.

Boeing's Proposal

While Airbus has made notable strides, Boeing is also in the running to supply aircraft to Biman. Bhuiyan confirmed that Boeing has presented its proposal, which the airline is currently reviewing. The inclusion of Boeing aircraft would diversify the fleet and ensure a balanced approach to expansion, leveraging the strengths of both leading manufacturers.

Financial and Operational Considerations

Investment Requirements

The ambitious expansion plan requires substantial financial investment. Securing funding, as demonstrated by the UK's Export Finance scheme for the A350-900s, will be a crucial component of the strategy. Biman will need to explore various financing options, including government support, international loans, and partnerships with financial institutions.

Operational Readiness

Expanding the fleet is not just about acquiring new aircraft; it also involves preparing the airline's operational infrastructure to support the larger fleet. This includes enhancing maintenance facilities, training additional pilots and crew, and upgrading airport operations to handle increased traffic.


Biman Bangladesh Airlines, under the visionary leadership of Mohammad Jahidul Islam Bhuiyan, is poised for a transformative decade. By 2035, the airline aims to nearly double its fleet size, positioning itself as a major player in the global aviation industry. With strategic partnerships with Airbus and Boeing, and a clear focus on financial and operational readiness, Biman is set to soar to new heights. The journey ahead is challenging but promising, heralding a new era of growth and success for Bangladesh's national flag carrier.

With Inputs from ch-aviation

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Is European Airline Consolidation Facing Turbulence?

Abhishek Nayar

06 Jul 2024

European airline consolidation has been a hot topic in the aviation industry, especially as major players like Lufthansa, IAG, and Air France-KLM seek to expand their footprints through strategic acquisitions. However, increasing scrutiny from European regulators poses significant challenges. The recent approval of Lufthansa’s acquisition of a 41% stake in ITA Airways, following a year-long negotiation with the European Commission, underscores the complexities involved. This article delves into the implications of these regulatory hurdles and what they mean for the future of airline mergers and acquisitions in Europe.

Lufthansa's Acquisition of ITA Airways: A Case Study

Lufthansa’s purchase of ITA Airways highlights both the opportunities and obstacles in the current regulatory landscape. Despite the acquisition expanding Lufthansa’s presence in the lucrative southern European market, it came with significant concessions. To gain approval, Lufthansa had to cede certain routes and slots to competitors, reflecting the European Commission’s cautious stance on consolidation.

The Regulatory Gauntlet

The European Commission’s stringent scrutiny of airline mergers aims to prevent market monopolies that could harm consumer choice and drive-up prices. This heightened vigilance can deter airlines from pursuing deals, fearing prolonged legal battles, high costs, and the loss of valuable assets. British Airways-owner IAG’s protracted efforts to acquire Spanish carrier Air Europa since 2019 exemplify these challenges. With an EU deadline for concessions approaching, the future of this deal remains uncertain.

The Role of Government Stakes and Strategic Assets

National carriers often hold strategic importance for governments, complicating potential mergers. The political and economic significance of these airlines means governments are reluctant to relinquish control completely. Portugal’s TAP is a prime example, with its CEO advocating for a partial sale involving non-aviation investors to alleviate regulatory concerns.

Market Dynamics: The Rise of Low-Cost Carriers

While major airline groups face regulatory headwinds, low-cost carriers like Ryanair continue to expand rapidly. Ryanair’s dominance in Italy, where it holds over 40% market share, was notably absent from the European Commission’s assessment during Lufthansa’s ITA acquisition. This oversight raises questions about the comprehensive nature of regulatory evaluations and whether low-cost carriers’ market influence is being adequately considered.

Industry Perspectives

Airline executives argue that consolidation is necessary to mitigate soaring operating costs and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic’s severe impact. However, they also express frustration over the European Commission’s demands. EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren highlights the paradox that without consolidation, airlines may continue relying on government bailouts, which could be more detrimental in the long run.

The Future of Airline Consolidation in Europe

The path forward for airline mergers in Europe appears fraught with regulatory challenges. While consolidation can bring operational efficiencies and stabilize the industry, the European Commission’s rigorous oversight aims to preserve competitive markets. The balance between these two objectives will shape the landscape of European aviation in the coming years.


As the debate over airline consolidation continues, the European aviation industry must navigate a complex regulatory environment. The outcomes of high-profile mergers, such as Lufthansa’s stake in ITA Airways and IAG’s bid for Air Europa, will serve as benchmarks for future deals. Striking a balance between fostering competition and enabling industry growth remains the key challenge for regulators and airlines alike.

With Inputs from Reuters