LAHORE: The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is seriously mulling suspending its flight operation for the United States from January next year, primarily because of ‘low traffic’.

The airline has stopped booking for its twice-a-week flights for New York from November onwards. However, it will continue to operate its two weekly flights — Lahore-New York and Karachi-Lahore-New York — till Dec 31.

“The PIA is considering closing its flight operation for the US till the financial health of the organisation improves,” a senior official privy to the development told Dawn on Saturday. “The national flag carrier is already facing acute financial crunch, therefore, it cannot operate on routes which are running in losses,” the official said, adding that the PIA’s accumulative loss was over Rs300 billion.

When contacted, PIA spokesman Mashood Tajwar said that the decision whether to continue the flight operation for New York after December would be taken in the coming weeks.

Since 1961, the national flag carrier has never stopped flights for New York

“The PIA’s two flights in a week for New York will continue to operate till Dec 31. A decision whether to continue this operation after Dec 31 will be taken by the management in coming weeks.”

Mr Tajwar admitted that the US flight operation was not economically viable.

Nearly 500,000 Pakistanis live in the US and PIA has never stopped its flight operation for that country since it launched the operation there in 1961.

“The PIA may also close its New York office by the end of December and may go for code-sharing with some foreign airline regarding its passengers for the US,” sources said.

The PIA spokesman, however, held out the assurance that no retrenchment would be done in case the management decided to suspend the US flight operation. “There will be transfers and postings according to the PIA’s needs,” he added.

In the past years the PIA operated flights for Washington, Chicago and Houston. Of late, it has cut twice-a-week flight for Chicago and Houston because the routes were no more financially viable.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2017