With the inauguration of its service to Tokyo from Novem-ber 1,1969, P.I.A. completes a full half circle around the globe. The opening of the Tokyo service over the appropriately named “PEARL ROUTE” marks the fulfillment of a long cherished desire of the airline. Pakistan Post Office is issuing a set of two commemorative postage stamps of 20 Paisa and 50 Paisa deno-minations on November 1,1969 to commemorate the occasion.
The selection of the name ‘PEARL ROUTE’ for the Pakistan-Japan service reflects the characteristics of the countries the flight is to touch on its route. Dacca is known for its pink pearls and Bangkok for precious stones. Manila is the capital of the Philippines which is called the Pearl of the Pacific and Tokyo is internationally famous for its cultured pearls. But more than that, the word ‘Pearl’ is in character with the em-phasis that PIA lays on excellence in all spheres of its operations. And that explains why, despite its rather recent origin and smaller size as compared to the older international airlines, PIA has won world-wide acclaim for its efficiency and punctuality; its technical excellence and distinctive service; its courtesy and hospitality.
This is no mean achievement for an airline from a new Asian country, which started operating only in 1954. At the outset PIA inherited only a small fleet of piston-engined aircraft from its predecessor, the Orient Airways. But with this it also in-herited a formidable challenge of bridging the 1,000-mile distance between East and West Pakistan, as also of providing modern, convenient air links between distant regions within two provinces. No less important was the objective of projecting Pakistan on the fast expanding map of world aviation.
PIA met the challenge with imagination, courage and a supreme sense of national devotion. With three super-constellation aircraft it started the first direct air link between East and West Pakistan without landing in India enroute. In February 1955 it inaugurated its first international service from Karachi to London through Cairo and Rome. In March 1955, Orient Airways, which was till then operating domestic routes was finally merged with PTA and the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation came into being as a body corporate under a statute.
Since then the story of PTA has been one of rapid growth. It has continued to follow a forward looking policy, content with nothing less than the best in equipment and the highest standards of technical and professional competence. By 1959, Vicker Viscounts were operating trunk routes in West Pakistan and the following year Fokker Friendships (F-27) were introduced in East Pakistan and on the shorter sectors in the West wing. When the jet age dawned, PTA was quick to lease a Boeing 707 from Pan American World Airways, and in March, 1960 it became the first Asian airline to operate an international route by a jet aircraft. In 1964 PTA hit world headlines by becoming the first non-communist airline to start a Boeing service to Canton and Shanghai. The same year it achieved the distinction of being the first international airline to be allowed to operate a service through Moscow to other destinations in Europe.
PJA has since continued to forge ahead with its fleet moderni-zation programme. Today it has a fleet of seven Boeings, four Tridents and eleven Fokker Friendships, all jet powered air-craft. It holds reservations on two American Supersonic (SST) aircraft. At home it has scheduled services to distant regions within the two wings of the country. Abroad it operates eleven services a week to London through the Middle East and Europe. The countries served by it are China, Thailand, Burma, Nepal. and now Japan in the East and USSR, Iran, Turkey, Afghanis-tan, Iraq, Lebanon, U.A.R., Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland in the West. In due course PIA hopes to further expand its operations both East and West.
Throughout its expansion programme, PIA has strictly adhered to the highest standards of technical competence and service efficiency. It takes pride in having maintained high record of punctuality. Its safety record is among the best in the world.
The graceful service and uniform of its airhostesses and the exceptional quality of its cuisine and in-flight service have given it a place of prestige in the rank of world airlines.
PIA has always attached the greatest importance to its maintenance facilities. Its engineering complex today is the biggest East of Suez. It is not only self-sufficient in its own engineering needs, but is providing maintenance service to a number of foreign airlines. Its workshops are now capable of carrying out the biggest and the most complex engineering tasks, including the complete overhaul of Boeing aircraft, which was till recently being done in the United States. PTA’s engineering facilities have the approval of the United States Federal Aviation Agency and the British Air Registration Board.