‘Disappointing’: TPG reviews PIA’s executive economy flight to London

Apart from a well-equipped amenities bag, the airline is well below par in all other aspects

While the all-new administration of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), headed by Air Marshal Arshad Malik, takes pride in its efforts to take the national flag carrier back to the heights of glory (it was once at), a review of PIA’s Executive Economy class flight by The Points Guy, an American travel website, tells a whole different story.

Ben Smithson, a vlogger for the website who was on a trip to Pakistan, reviewed his experience of his return flight back home to London from the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore.

It starts from here…

On a recent trip to Pakistan, I jumped at the chance to try the national carrier’s best product on a flagship route. There was little information online, and all I could determine was that Pakistan International Airlines had been flying the same business-class product for a long time, and it was likely to be very, very outdated.

Booking

PIA flies to several location in Europe including Barcelona (BCN), Copenhagen (CPH) and Paris (CDG) as well as three destinations in the UK: London (LHR), Manchester (MAN) and Birmingham (BHX) from their various bases in Pakistan, including Islamabad (ISB), Lahore (LHE) and Karachi (KHI).

The airline does not belong to any global alliance, nor can you use any major mileage currencies to book seats. So I looked at revenue fares, which were not even displayed on major flight search platforms like Google Flights, forcing me to search on the airline’s own website instead.

It’s surprisingly difficult to book a flight with PIA in any class. If the route does not operate daily and you search on a day the flight doesn’t operate, it is likely to indicate the route does not exist, as it does not suggest alternate days when the flight may operate and/or have seats for sale.

When I did manage to find seats for sale on a particular date, I discovered that PIA had renamed its business class “Executive Economy” on several routes. While the airline doesn’t offer a traditional premium economy product like British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, it seems that the airline simply rebranded its business-class product as a premium economy one on certain flights.

While still considerably more expensive than economy seats on the same flight, round-trip fares in Executive Economy from the UK to Pakistan start from around $1,500, which is slightly more than British Airways World Traveller Plus (premium economy) fares to Pakistan and around 40% cheaper than their competitors in proper business class on the likes of leading carriers like Etihad and Oman Air.

I played around with fares, routes, dates and prices and discovered the lowest price was a one-way fare from Lahore to London for around $610. A one-way fare in the other direction was significantly more expensive.

From what I could gather, while PIA had changed the name of their most premium product from “business class” to “Executive Economy,” everything else about the experience appeared to be the carrier’s “proper” business class.

Ground experience

Online check-in was not available for this flight, though PIA advised me by email that I should arrive at least four hours before departure because of queues and security checks. This filled me with fear at the thought of a horrendous airport experience with hours spent in line, though I had observed when landing at Lahore Airport a few days earlier that, for inbound passengers at least, it was a small and surprisingly efficient airport that I sailed through quickly.

Thinking four hours for an outbound journey was excessive, I hedged my bets and made sure I arrived around two and a half hours before departure.

Although Lahore Airport is an older design, I thought the style was charming

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