Etihad Almost Bought the Worst Airline in the World

Pakistan International Airlines is the worst airline in the world. Best known for sacrificing a goat for safety and flying with more passengers than seats (and making customers stand for 1700 miles), the airline’s CEO was actually detained as a result of his efforts to provide good seats and service by wet leasing aircraft from SriLankan.

Boeing 777 on Approach to New York JFK in 2014, Copyright zhukovsky / 123RF Stock Photo

The airline is so bad that even operating on time creates problems: customers build failure into their expectations and don’t actually show up for flights when they’re scheduled to depart.

Here’s a sample from an actual PIA flight.

Pakistan agreed to privatize PIA as a condition of receiving an IMF bailout. However the plan led to employee protests which turned violent in clashes with police involving rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas.

The government has backed off plans to privatize the airline. Bad for the government’s finances, bad for the IMF, but great for Emirates and Etihad who are the two airlines that had considered buying into PIA.

Emirates and Etihad Airways showed interest in buying a stake in Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), but the government was forced to retreat from its sell-off agenda as protests kicked off, said a top official privy to privatisation developments.

Both carriers serve the India-Pakistan region extensively. Indeed, PIA has only about 10% of the Pakistani market to the UAE. However this would provide any winner with plenty of reach, and plenty of headaches.

Etihad already rolled snakeyes on airberlin and Alitalia. Their better investments include Air Serbia. I have to think at least prior to James Hogan falling out of favor with the Al Nahyan family — that they’d be the more likely suitor. They’re one of the few that was willing to keep investing in Alitalia after all. They could have flushed even more money on PIA.

But PIA employees revolted violently, the fortunes of Alitalia and air berlin took turns for the worse. Had this all come to fruition a couple of years earlier it could have happened.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary is biased. Read One Mile At A Time review of the airline. I also have flown it and it is pretty darn average and nowhere near the worst.

  2. I actually flew a PIA F27 (I’m pretty sure) between Peshawar and Lahore in 1963. Good flight, but we drove back. It seemed brand new, very clean, with great service, but the last flight I’d taken was Ariana Afghan Airline’s DC6 from Tehran to Kabul in ’61(when I was all of 14 yrs.old!)

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