30 May 2023
Both seizures were for the same reason.
Although there is a famous saying of how lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, it’s also typically quite rare and nearly unheard of for the same aircraft to be seized by the same country twice.
One particular widebody operated by Pakistan International Airlines has suffered this peculiar fate after being seized in Malaysia twice in less than three years.
First seizure occurred two years ago
The widebody in question is a Boeing 777-200ER registered AP-BMH and was previously registered VN-A150 when it operated for Vietnam Airlines from December 2005 to October 2015 before being leased out to join Pakistan International Airlines’ fleet a couple of months later.
Just over two years ago, on January 2021, the aircraft operated a routinely scheduled flight, PK 894, from Islamabad International Airport to Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Unfortunately, the aircraft could not operate the scheduled flight service home after Malaysian authorities conducted a seizure once all passengers had already boarded. At that time, the local authorities confirmed that they were given orders from a Malaysian court to seize the Boeing 777 over Pakistan International Airlines’ non-payment of aircraft lease dues to Dublin-based aircraft lessor Peregrine Aviation Charlie Limited.
The leasing company alleged that the Pakistani flag carrier stopped making payments in July 2020. It said it had filed a case against PIA in London High Court in October over the failure to pay a leasing fee of about $14 million, pending for six months.
In response, Pakistan International Airlines claimed that since the pandemic affected the aviation industry, overhead charges should have been reduced.
Without any amicable solutions or payments, Peregrine Aviation Charlie Limited kept a watchful eye on the activities of the flag carrier. And upon learning of PK 895’s scheduled landing in Malaysia, the aircraft lessor appealed to the Malaysian court to seize the aircraft per international civil aviation leasing laws.
The impound lasted for two weeks and was only released by the Kuala Lumpur High Court after both parties said they reached an amicable settlement.
Another seizure two years later
Unfortunately for Pakistan International Airlines and AP-BMH, luck is not on their side as on May 29th, the widebody was seized yet again.
And coincidentally, AP-BMH was operating as flight PK 894 and was held by the Malaysian authorities upon landing at Kuala Lumpur – for the very same reason. Although this time, the airline’s non-payment of dues is worth slightly less at about $4 million.
It’s currently unclear if the unpaid lease dues were owed to the same aircraft lessor as before or to a different party. It is also uncertain if this impound could be solved quickly or will require many days, such as before. At this time of writing, Pakistan International Airlines is yet to respond with a comment.
What is certain, however, is that in response to the impounding of AP-BMH, another Boeing 777-200ER was sent out to ferry the stranded passengers and crew back. Registered as AP-BGK, the older widebody landed back at Islamabad at approximately 07:56 and has already been temporarily deployed to operate the Islamabad-Kuala Lumpur route scheduled for June 1st.
This latest seizure highlights Pakistan International Airlines’s challenges, as the airline continues to struggle financially in the post-pandemic climate.
Hopefully, the recent seizure can be settled quicker than last time, as having a Boeing 777 impounded in a foreign country for any period will only add to the airline’s troubles.
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