Pakistan International Airlines, the country's national flag carrier, has confirmed that it will be laying off half of its 14,000 staff as part of a massive overhaul to improve its profitability.
The airline has been making operational losses for years despite repeated reforms and restructuring attempts, including multiple reductions in head count. Prior to the current round of layoffs, PIA had launched a voluntary separation scheme at the end of 2020 that saw around 2,000 staff depart out of 3,500 who were offered the scheme.
Human resource expenditure has been a constant challenge for the airline, which has one of the highest employee to aircraft ratios in the world. With only 30 aircraft in its fleet, PIA has nearly 500 personnel per aircraft. In comparison, other airlines based around the region have less than half that number. Qatar Airlines, for example, has fewer than 150 employees per aircraft and Emirates has approximately 230. If the current round of layoffs proceeds as planned, PIA's ratio of personnel to aircraft will fall by half.
Besides the layoffs, the airline is also planning to replace part of its fleet and close loss-making routes with the objective of regaining profitability by 2023. However, the International Air Transport Association has predicted that air travel is unlikely to recover until at least 2024 and millions of aviation jobs remain at risk.