The Truth about Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)

I’ve been travelling with PIA [Pakistan International Airlines] ever since I was born, and that was a really long time ago.

Back then PIA was one of the best airlines in the world. Now it’s just a shadow of its glorious past.

But even now it’s not such a bad airline. I’ve heard horror stories about PIA, that PIA forgot to load the baggage along with the passengers, the washroom was leaking with the water reaching the aisles, and so on.

PIA breakfast on 10am flight to Karachi
PIA breakfast on 10am flight to Karachi

I’ve had a few bad experiences with Pakistan International Airlines, but nothing traumatic.

Here’s my list of bad experiences with Pakistan International Airlines – PIA:


  1. Flight to Singapore delayed tortuously long. 12am flight left at 4.00am.
  2. Flight to Multan at 6pm cancelled. The PIA booking agent books another flight three days ahead instead of the one leaving at 10pm that same night.
  3. Crew forgot to serve meal on a flight from Islamabad to Karachi. Remembered to serve it just when the plane was on the descent. My stomach wasn’t amused and kept nagging me a good 3-4 hours after we had landed.

And a number of other flight delays and cancellations, but most of them were notified well in advance, so I won’t gripe about them.

PIA breakfast on flight to lahore
PIA breakfast on flight to lahore

The one thing PIA maintained consistently throughout this terrible phase was their meal. In stark contrast to Airblue, they kept serving relatively better and substantially fulfilling meal.

Alas, they did away with that as well. On my last flight from Lahore to Karachi scheduled to fly at 22:00 hours, PIA first notified that the fight would leave half an hour late. And then took another half an hour to get the plane in the air. Moreover, I’ve travelled countless times on this particular flight and never has PIA not served dinner on it.

This was the first time PIA served what looked like an excuse of a meal. Just have a look at the pictures below to get an idea.


PIA dinner served on 10pm flight
PIA dinner served on 10pm flight


There was a tiny sandwich, a biscuit and that’s just about. And this served to disgruntled customers who were an hour late and going to reach their home well after 1.30am with nothing else to eat at this unearthly hour.

This just goes on to show their callousness and indifference, which is all the more alarming considering that other international airlines bend over each other to provide great service.

And this wasn’t always the case. Pakistan International Airlines was one of the best airlines in the entire world back in the 60,70s; even till 80s. Not many airlines could hold a candle to PIA back then.

The downfall began in the 90s when political hirings became the norm. Each successive government burdened the national carrier with their own goons and cronies with the result that now PIA has the largest staff-to-aircraft ratio probably in the entire world. Maybe PIA should apply for a Guinness World Record.


  1. Still decent in-flight service in spite of all other shortcomings.
  2. Flights usually take-off on time and land on-time when bad weather is not involved or Hajj season is not in full swing.

The worst airline I’ve travelled so far with is Lufthansa. That was when I went from Frankfurt to Amsterdam. It was such a claustrophobic plane, with the seat in front literally in your face. It was that bad, like travelling in a Pakistani bus. And the less said about the lufthansa meal, the better.

Coming to PIA, even now many people prefer PIA over Airblue and other private carriers. I can’t really say whether it’s due to PIA’s relatively better passenger service or the serving of proper meals [lacking in Airblue and others].

Whenever there are three flights simultaneously to the same city, the flight most crowded is the PIA flight. This I’ve experienced time and again, and because of this, I prefer to travel on one of the other airline in such a situation. Why? The other airlines’ flight has a lot of vacant seats and you get extra space to stretch yourself.

Once I chose Airblue for my flight to Islamabad. PIA was also flying at the same time.

Result? I got my seat changed to near the emergency exit. And I had three seats all to myself! That’s how luxurious it can get. You’ll seldom find such a situation on PIA local flight.

What’s NExt for PIA?

Of course this doesn’t mean that PIA is a terrific airline by any stretch of the imagination. You can find innumerable woes about PIA’s service on online forums, mostly by Goras. That’s because PIA has lagged far behind the other airlines who have embraced the future and adapted accordingly.

If PIA wants to get back in the game, it will really have to restructure itself with no regard for political affiliations.

[easyreview title=”Pakistan International Airlines” icon=”star2″ cat1title=”Check-in experience” cat1detail=”Sometimes a breeze other times a disaster” cat1rating=”6″ cat2title=”Seat Comfort” cat2detail=”Not bad.” cat2rating=”6.0″ cat3title=”FOOD” cat3detail=”Quality deteriorating steadily.” cat3rating=”5.0″ cat4title=”Punctuality” cat4detail=”Wouldn’t count on it.” cat4rating=”4.0″ cat5title=”In-flight amenities” cat5detail=”No Wifi, entertainment console. No Nothing” cat5rating=”1.0″ cat6title=”In-flight service” cat6detail=”Actually quite good.” cat6rating=”7.5″ cat7title=”Baggage handling” cat7detail=”Never had problem with it.” cat7rating=”7.5″ summary=”Has nosedived from its golden era, but still potential to save it from a crash landing.”]

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