PIA - Pakistan International Airlines (PK, Islamabad International) has lent its London Heathrow slots over to other carriers for the IATA 2023 summer season as the UK Civil Aviation Authority continues to blacklist all Pakistani carriers. However, plans are afoot in Islamabad to have that flight ban lifted and see PIA resume flying to London.

According to filings with airport slot coordinators, PIA has surrendered six weekly slot pairs to Vietnam Airlines (VN, Hanoi Noi Bai International) between April 1 and October 2023, as well as ten weekly slots pairs to Kuwait Airways (KU, Kuwait) between March 26 and October 22, 2023.

The slots are made available to airlines at London Heathrow on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, with airlines holding slots required to use them at least 70% of the time. The CAA banned PIA in 2020 in the wake of a pilot licence forgery scandal. However, by leasing out its slots to carriers which will use them, PIA complies with the terms of its slot contract. Heathrow Airport, which doesn't control slot allocations, has reportedly been pushing for some time for PIA to lose landing rights there.

Meanwhile, the CAA's Pakistani peer, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA), told the National Assem­bly Standing Committee on Aviation on July 13 that it will outsource the operations and management of Islamabad International, Lahore International, and Karachi International airports to bring some much-needed hard currency into Pakistan. The meeting was attended by PCAA Director General Khaqan Murtaza, politicians, and officials from the Ministry of Aviation, PIA, and Pakistan's Aircraft Accident Investigation Board.

The country's finance minister, Ishaq Dar, told media last weekend that he hoped the new airport operators would introduce some efficiencies to the airports and improve their safety records. The airports would be run through a public-private partnership model.

The finance minister is setting a cracking pace with the outsourcing program, telling stakeholders he wants a deal done for Islamabad International Airport by August 12. He is also trying to push through amendments to Pakistan's civil aviation laws and a restructuring plan for PIA by the end of July, saying doing so would facilitate on-the-ground assessments of PIA operational processes and procedures by regulators from the European Union, United States, and the United Kingdom as soon as August, opening the way for the resumption of flights to those jurisdictions. Dar says missing the end of July-deadline will push plans back by 12 months, although he did not say why.