Aviation minister blames PML-N for expensive aircraft leases

Ghulam Sarwar says Pakistan couldn't pay least because of the pandemic

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan held the previous government responsible for leasing the two Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircrafts on overly expensive terms.

He told media persons on Saturday that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had acquired the planes on expensive leases which could not be paid by the national exchequer due to the pandemic.

He added that a case was being heard in a United Kingdom court but a Malaysian court issued an order without giving the airline a chance to present arguments.

The next hearing in London will take place on January 22, while the matter will also be taken up in a Malaysian court on January 24.

54 of 172 passengers on board a PIA held back by Malaysian authorities on Friday returned home on Sunday.

The Boeing 777 aircraft was seized after a court order, a PIA spokesman said, and alternative arrangements were being made for passengers due to fly from Kuala Lumpur back to Pakistan. The case involved a $14 million lease dispute, the airline said.

After the passage of some 40 hours, the PIA management managed to send home the 54 nationals through a Qatar Airlines flight.

On arrival at Islamabad International Airport, the passengers piled up complaints against Pakistan embassy officials and the PIA staffers. They said that the airline’s and the embassy staff did not cooperate in arranging alternate accommodation, saying they had to sleep on the floor of the Kuala Lumpur Airport for two days.

“PIA’s Kuala Lumpur flight’s passengers will reach Islamabad in the evening today (Saturday),” a PIA handout said on Saturday and added the airline’s ground staff in Dubai and Doha were ensuring the stranded passengers were well taken care of.

According to orders passed by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Thursday and seen by Reuters, the plaintiff of the case is Peregrine Aviation Charlie Limited and the matter pertains to two jets leased to PIA by Dublin-based AerCap, the world’s largest aircraft lessor, in 2015.

They are part of a portfolio that AerCap sold to Peregrine Aviation Co Ltd, an investment unit of NCB Capital, the brokerage arm of National Commercial Bank SJSC, in 2018.

According to the interim injunction, PIA is restrained from moving two aircraft in its fleet — a Boeing 777-200ER with serial number 32716 and a Boeing 777-200ER with serial number 32717 — once they have landed or parked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport until a further hearing on the matter later this month.

Tracking data from Flightradar24 showed only one of the two Boeing 777s covered by the court order is currently in Kuala Lumpur. The other was last recorded in Karachi last month.

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