Malaysia seizes Pakistan International Airlines aircraft over lease

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) passenger plane has been held back by Malaysian authorities due to a British court case over the jet’s lease.

PIA announced the news on Twitter on Friday, adding it would pursue the matter through diplomatic channels.

The Boeing 777 aircraft was seized after a court order and alternative arrangements were being made for passengers due to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Pakistan.

The case involved a $14m lease dispute, a PIA official said.

“A PIA aircraft has been held back by a local court in Malaysia taking a one-sided decision pertaining to a legal dispute between PIA and another party pending in a UK court,” a PIA spokesman Abdullah H Khan said in a statement.

“We were told that the plane has been impounded on a court order,” Khan said later in a video statement. “PIA’s legal team will pursue it in the Malaysian court, and we hope that we will resolve this issue as soon as possible.”

According to orders passed by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Thursday the plaintiff of the case is Peregrine Aviation Charlie Limited and the matter pertains to two jets leased to PIA by Dublin-based AerCap, the world’s largest aircraft lessor, in 2015.

They are part of a portfolio that AerCap sold to Peregrine Aviation Co Ltd, an investment unit of NCB Capital, the brokerage arm of National Commercial Bank SJSC, in 2018.

According to the interim injunction, PIA is restrained from moving two aircraft in its fleet – a Boeing 777-200ER with serial number 32716 and a Boeing 777-200ER with serial number 32717 – once they have landed or parked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport until a further hearing on the matter later this month.

Tracking data from Flightradar24 showed only one of the two Boeing 777s covered by the court order is currently in Kuala Lumpur.

The other was last recorded in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi last month.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said in a statement on Friday the aircraft was being held pending legal proceedings set for January 24.

PIA in a statement described the situation as “unacceptable” adding it had asked for support from Pakistan’s government to raise the matter diplomatically.

With more than $4 billion in accumulated losses, PIA was already struggling financially when flights were grounded last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After it resumed operations in May, a domestic PIA plane crash in Karachi killed 97 out of 99 people on board.

Later, PIA suspended 150 pilots after questions over the authenticity of their licences emerged.

In June, the airline was banned from flying to the EU for six months over safety compliance concerns under a ban still in place.

In the same month, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) grounded all Pakistani pilots flying for domestic airlines in that country over concerns regarding their credentials.