ISLAMABAD, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said on Monday it aims to lease up to eight new aircraft in a move to upgrade its ageing fleet as the government seeks to turn around the loss-making flag carrier, long a drag on the federal budget.
A company spokesman said PIA had placed advertisements in domestic newspapers on Sunday seeking to secure both short- and long-term leases for wide-body aircraft. The ad, which didn't disclose financial terms for the leases, specified the airline is seeking modern planes, made since 2012, with capacity for more than 250 passengers each.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had made the privatisation of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) a top goal when he came to power in 2013. However, those plans were abandoned earlier this year after crippling strikes by staff protesting against privatisation, and a new turnaround strategy drawn up.
The government now plans to convert PIA into a limited company and list a 49 percent stake on the local stock exchange, meaning it will retain control of the business for at least two years. After that period, the government could still end up selling its controlling stake.
In its ad seeking places to lease, titled "Revival of PIA", the company said it was seeking a short-term "wet lease" of up to four wide-body aircraft, meaning the planes would come complete with crew and maintenance staff.
The ad sought a long-term "dry lease" of up to four aircraft, meaning aircraft without crew. It said the lease term would be six to eight years.
PIA said the new aircraft must have the latest in in-flight entertainment services. Outdated planes with poor entertainment facilities are among frequent complaints made by travellers about PIA.
The privatisation of 68 state-owned companies, including PIA, was a major element of a $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund package that helped Pakistan stave off a default in 2013. Though some have been sold, many privatisations were put off until after the next general election, most likely to be held in May 2018. (Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)