NEW DELHI, May 30: In a repetition of what happened two years ago, Malaysia once again impounded a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Boeing 777 aircraft with passengers on board at the Kuala Lumpur airport on Tuesday over payment of dues amounting to $4 million on a Malaysian court order.
Top sources in the Pakistan government, however, tried to downplay the issue, saying “dues are regular after a lease process.” The aircraft was acquired by the PIA on lease from Malaysia.
In an earlier incident, a PIA aircraft with 170 passengers on board was held back at the Kuala Lumpur Airport on January 15, 2021, on the orders of a local Malaysian court over a legal dispute in a UK court between PIA and another party.
The litigation was initiated due to non-payment. The leasing company had filed a case against PIA at the London High Court in October 2020 over its failure to pay leasing fee worth around $14 million, which had been pending for six months.
As soon as the company received the information of the PIA flight 895’s scheduled landing in Malaysia, it appealed to a local court to seize the aircraft, as per the international civil aviation leasing laws, sources added.
On January 26, 2021, the PIA informed the London High Court that it paid the amount to Peregrine Aviation Charlie Ltd in the case pertaining to two jets leased to it by the Dublin-based AerCap.
Following the incident, alternate arrangements for passengers’ travel were finalized. A statement added that the passengers were being looked after and alternate arrangements for their travel have been finalised. It is an unacceptable situation and PIA has engaged support from the government of Pakistan to take up this matter using diplomatic channels, it said. A PIA spokesman said a leasing dispute was going on between the PIA and the Irish company and the latter had filed a case in the UK six months ago and the Malaysian court took an ex-parte decision about the plane.
Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri had said the Pakistan High Commission in Kuala Lumpur was in close contact with the Malaysian authorities to resolve the matter.” Meanwhile, the passengers are being properly looked after and alternate arrangements for their travel to Pakistan have also been finalised,” he had said.
A Government spokesman then had claimed that the PIA got the plane on lease 12 years ago and there was dispute about the payments and Malaysia had nothing to do with the dispute but still the plane was held back in that country.
PIA has been going through difficult times since the crash of its airliner in Karachi in 2020 which led to disclosure by the aviation minister that dozens of local pilots had fake documents.