After 9 years, I am visiting Pakistan again. This time, I am flying on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) B777-200/LR from Dubai to Islamabad. Find out the latest PIA in-flight service and passenger experience onboard the flight. PIA was the launch customer of the B777-200/LR. I flew on the prototype on my flight to Pakistan.
After landing at Islamabad, I met up with PIA CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik, he spoke openly about all the PIA issues and how he is going to fix the airline. We discussed issues about the EU blacklist, the credibility of the pilots and return PIA to profitability. Chief commercial officer Ali Qasim also discussed the latest fleet strategy and consolidation of European operations.
PIA operated many rescue flights out of Kabul, Afghanistan, and flew about 5000-7000 people out. PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan shared with me some of the first-hand details of the challenging operation in Kabul.
I flew to Skardu in the Northern area of Pakistan. This is one of the most scenic and exciting flight in the country. Captain Majid from PIA gave a quick briefing on the ATR-42-500 flight. Soon after takeoff from Islamabad, the plane flies directly over the mountains of Northern Areas of Pakistan.
It was a clear winter day of flying. The passengers are treated to a ‘one of a kind’ experience – a sky dance of the Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges which include some of the highest peaks in the world. You can see Nanga Parbat (8,125m), Rakaposhi (7,788m), and above all, the spectacular K-2 (the second highest peak in the world) towering above all others at 8,611 meters.
The approach into Skardu was very tricky and no turning back once past the “decision point”. Pilot need to perform a “Z” shaped bend call Zulu Bend, flying between a few mountain peaks before the Skardu valley appears.
After landing, I was given a quick tour to Shangrila resort in Skardu. Check out the scenery and environment of Skardu. It is a hidden gem to the world and has huge potential for tourism. Skardu airport has recently upgraded to international airport status. They’re constructing a 6km new runway. I flew PIA A320 on my way back. We flew past all the tall mountains with a clear view from the cockpit. It is truly the Air Safari.