Pakistan International Airlines has started to return its fleet of ATR72-500 aircraft to the leasing companies. The first aircraft out of the 5 PIA had left the fleet yesterday for its destination in South Africa. The aircraft AP-BKY left Karachi for Muscat on 11 December. On 12 December the aircraft travelled from Muscat to Jeddah and it is scheduled to travel onwards to Nairobi and from Nairobi to Dar-es-Salaam onwards to Johannesburg on 13 December.
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PIA took these 5 ATR72-500s on dry lease during the PMLN government in 2015. Captain Shujaat Azeem was Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s advisor on Aviation and he decided to take at the larger version of ATRs on dry lease. PIA already had the ATR42-500 that it took directly from ATR. There were questions about the thinking of getting the 72s instead of smaller 42s that suited PIA. The lease terms were unfavourable and previous PIA management failed to get rid of the planes. According to PIA spokesperson, the airline could not continue to afford bleeding cash and took advantage of a clause in the lease agreement given the COVID19 crises to return the aircraft.
There was always opinion among PIA officials that PIA never needed the ATR72s because they made no economic sense for an airline like PIA and it had to always operate them to the same capacity as its ATR42s. The lease terms were also very tough. PIA used these ATRs mostly on routes within Punjab and Balochistan but its weight restrictions made it impossible to be utilised to the fullest.