Air Links & Services
At the time of independence of Pakistan in 1947, there was no air service available in the country for passenger traveling, specially so to link the two part of the then united Pakistan, i.e. West and the East Pakistan, separated by almost a stretch of 1000 miles by India. It was sometime in 1951 that serious thinking underway to have a national flag carrier airline. Till then as a stop gap arrangement, Orient Airways started operating to provide air services on a small scale. In 1951, the then government established Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), and on 25 May ordered three Lockheed L-1049C Super Constellation four-engined aircraft. The newly born PIA flew its first service with the Super Constellation on 7th June 1954 on the route linking Karachi and Dacca (East Pakistan, now Bangladesh), which were the main cities of the country’s western and eastern halves. On 1 February 1955 the airline flew its first international service, between Karachi and London via Cairo. From then on the lone national carrier grew and soon became one of the best airlines in the world. From turbo props, it went on to Boeing 707s/720Bs, Trident, DC-10, Boeing 747s and now operates Boeing 777s and many versions of Airbus.
PIA continued to dominate the domestic scene of Pakistan being the only airlines, carries approximately 70 percent of domestic passengers and almost all domestic freight traffic. However, in the early nineties there was a major growth in the Pakistani aviation market with four new private airlines launching operations. The airline did very well to compete with the well established flag carrier, PIA which was controlled by the government. However, this was not to last as the UN placed economic sanctions on Pakistan and its neighbour, India that caused the airline market to suffer. It caused two of the four airlines to file for bankruptcy and liquidate their assets. The airline industry remained quite stable with PIA developing a strong hold on the international and domestic market for many years. It was not until the early 21st century that the industry started to pick up again that allowed the entry of a new carrier in the market, Air Blue which launched operations with new state of the art aircraft. As of now, many private companies namely Shaheen Airlines, Aero Asia and Air Blue are competing PIA both in domestic and international routes.
Beside these major airlines, some domestic airlines are also operating on smaller scale, like the Askari Aviation, AST Pakistan Airways, Jahangir Siddiqui Charter JS Air (Private) Limited, Pakistan Aviators & Aviation, Royal Airlines, Schon Air and Princely Jets.
Pakistan is maintaining a total of 36 operational number of big, medium and small sized airports – Quaid-e-Azam International Airport (Karachi), Allama Iqbal Internationa Airport (Lahore), Benazir International airport (Rawalpindi) are the three major airports for domestic and international airlines. Quetta and Peshawar also have airports linking Iran and Afghanistan. Other airports include Sukkur, Jacobababd, Pasni, Jiwani, Gwader, Ormara, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Multan, Skardu, Gilgit and Chitral. The last three airports are located in the northern areas of Pakistan, where flights are badly affected due to severe weather conditions.