Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Corporation is the flag carrier of Pakistan, which is based in Karachi. It offers air travel in the country and is popularly known as PIA. The main hubs of the airline are Jinnah International Airport, Karachi; the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore; and the Islamabad International Airport. Other hubs of the airline can be found at Peshawar, Faisalabad, Quetta and Multan, which link the metropolitan cities of Pakistan with the main bases (the Middle East and Far East). Majority of its shares are owned by the government of Pakistan, with a miniscule share with others investors.
The roots of Pakistan International Airlines can be traced back to the pre-independence era. Muhammad Ali Jinnah called upon industrialist Mirza Ahmad Ispahani to develop a flag carrier for a nation-in-making (Pakistan). In the meantime, an airline under the name of Orient Airways was founded on October 23, 1946, which began operating from Calcutta. Orient Airways purchased four Douglas DC-3s and started operations on June 4, 1947 with a flight on Calcutta-Akyab-Rangoon route. It shifted base to Karachi after independence, from where it began flights to Dhaka on June 7, 1954.
Gradually, Orient airways expanded its fleet and by the end of 1949 it had acquired 10 DC-3s and 3 Convair 240s. In 1955, the Pakistan Government decided to form a state-owned airline and merged Orient Airways with it. Orient was merged into the new national airline on March 11, 1955. Thereafter, it started operating under the new name of Pakistan International Airlines. Pakistan International Airlines took off on its first international route in the same year, from Karachi to London Heathrow Airport, via Cairo International Airport and Leonardo da Vinci Airport, Italy.
With the introduction of Boeing services, PIA became the first Asian airline to fly a jet air craft in 1960.PIA also helped Pakistani Army in transportation during the Indio-Pak war of 1965 and 1971. In the 1990s, the state government tried to privatize the airline due to the losses suffered, but didn't succeed. PIA maintains a cargo delivery system which operates within the country. The service was started in 1974 to Middle East and Europe but these operations were ended in 1990. In 2003 PIA founded PIA Speedex, a courier service extending to 12 cities of Pakistan. As of now, the service caters to 70 locations across the country.
Pakistan International Airlines presently covers 35 international destinations, spanning across 24 countries of the world. The airline flies to Canada and US, apart from a number of European countries, like France, Germany, Netherlands, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Denmark and Norway. It covers an extensive network in Asia, including China, Japan, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Malaysia and Thailand. In Pakistan, it caters to serves 23 domestic destinations, including Sindh, North West Frontier Province, Punjab, Islamabad Capital Territory and the Northern part of the country. In India, Pakistan International Airlines flies to Delhi and Mumbai.
Pakistan International Airlines operates with a fleet of about 40 aircrafts, including Airbus A310-300, ATR 42, Boeing 737-300, Boeing 747-300, Boeing 777-200ER, Boeing 777-200LR, and Boeing 777-300ER.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has several firsts to its credit. It is the first Asian airline to operate a pure jet aircraft; first non-communist airline to fly to the People’s Republic of China; first airline in Asia to induct Boeing 737-300 aircraft in its fleet; first airline in the world to operate scheduled helicopter services; first airline in the world to fly to Tashkent; and the first airline in the world to start Air Safari with Jet Aircraft. PIA also holds 31st position in the list of the largest airlines of Asia.