Nowadays Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is not thought of as a leader in civil aviation. Like its Indian neighbour Air India it has fallen from grace since the 1980s and struggled with embarrasing operational issues, regular crashes, corruption, one of the highest employee to aircraft ratios in the world and heavy financial losses. It wasn't always this way however and during the 1950s-80s PIA was one of the world's best run international airlines and a source of great pride to the people of Pakistan.
On July 19, 1957 the London service was increased to twice weekly, routing via Bahrain and Rome rather than Cairo, with one of the services also stopping at Geneva. Tehran and Damascus were added as further intermediate stops in 1958.
The first Viscount 815s initiated PIA's first turbine service on January 31, 1959, between Karachi and Delhi. A further pair of Viscounts was added in August and September with new Fokker 27s ordered to finally relieve the remaining DC-3s on the Eastern network from 1961.
The PIA of the 1960s was a well run airline with a high standard of operations including frequent surprise checks on the cleanliness of staff uniforms, check in counters and aircraft interiors. PIA was seen as a true flag carrier for the nation of Pakistan. A note of its high standards can be seen in that it was the first Asian airline to be granted maintenance approval by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Air Registration Board, predecessor of the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
PIA would keep these high standards well into the 1980s and interestingly it would be a key player in assisting with the startup of Emirates, one of the major reasons for its own problems in years to come. The continuing political unrest in and Islamification of Pakistan provide major obstacles to PIA's future and it remains to be seen whether it can ever be profitable in a deregulated Pakistan air market. Nonetheless with a modern fleet now at its disposal it has a slim chance to recover its glory days.