Pakistan owed foreign airlines approximately USD290 million as of the end of January 2023, according to Philip Goh, the International Air Transport Association's (IATA's) Asia-Pacific regional vice president.

Goh was quoted in multiple South Asian media outlets over the weekend addressing the challenges of repatriating funds out of Pakistan. The country is holding hard currency reserves of about USD4 billion, enough to cover only around 30 days worth of imports, and that is compelling Pakistan's central bank to make it very difficult to export US dollars out of the country.

“Airlines are facing long delays before they are able to repatriate their funds," he said in his IATA role. “Some airlines still have funds stuck in Pakistan from sales in 2022. If conditions persist that make the economics of operation to the country unsustainable, one would expect airlines to put their valued aircraft assets to better use elsewhere."

The cited sum of USD290 million is a 33% increase in the total amount airlines had stuck in Pakistan at the end of 2022. In addition to the challenges of extracting the money, the recovery process itself has also become more costly and time-consuming for airlines. The issue goes back to 2021 but has recently worsened. Presently, in terms of the dollar value of monies held back, Pakistan is second only to Nigeria. Unnamed Pakistani officials quoted in the reports say the government is aware of the problem, but with limited foreign currency reserves it becomes a balancing act of paying out what is owed and paying for everyday local needs such as medicines and food.

Neither Singapore Airlines nor its subsidiary Scoot fly into Pakistan, but 28 foreign carriers do. While local airlines PIA - Pakistan International Airlines (PK, Islamabad International) and AirBlue (PA, Karachi International) have the biggest market shares at 30% and 9.2% respectively, the top international carriers flying into Pakistan are Saudia, Emirates, and Qatar Airways. Emirates has previously had significant disputes and has temporarily discontinued flights to and from Nigeria over issues repatriating funds from there, while Virgin Atlantic (VS, London Heathrow) recently ended flights to Pakistan, saying difficulties getting money out of the country was one reason why.

Media reports indicate the airline industry is not the only industry impacted by Pakistan's foreign currency shortage, with the car industry also hard hit; Honda, Toyota, and Suzuki have all paused manufacturing in Pakistan during March for the same reason.