Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is working to catch up with the digital ancillary services market as part of a roadmap it laid out three years ago.

“We carry a huge legacy. PIA is one of the oldest airlines in the world,” project manager-information and communication technology Osama Sheikh told ATW on the sidelines of the Future Travel Experience conference in Istanbul. But the airline has not been able to pursue digitalization “for many reasons: political or economic reasons, changes of strategic plans in terms of several management changes, etc.,” he said.

PIA needs to improve its services and look for market partners who can grow alongside the carrier, “to provide the best customer experience and best technology,” he said.

The carrier’s first ancillary business, launched in May, was the sale of bulkhead seats.

“This is the very first move for us and we are getting a very good response from passengers,” Sheikh said.

PIA is also working to reduce costs and improve efficiency and margins. “This is one side,” Sheikh said. “We also have to work on the other side, like launching our new website and developing an app for passengers.”

Sheikh said ancillary products could include not only offering hotel rooms, but also such things as e-visas and medical services.

“Other big airlines that fly into Pakistan provide these ancillary services, so the market is there. But PIA is not capitalizing,” he said.

Meanwhile, PIA’s online sales have grown from 2% to 25%

“Our new management is very focused on the revival of the airline. We also have a plan to order new airplanes,” he said.

The airline also foresees digitalization projects in other areas, including MRO and paperless cockpits. In addition, PIA is talking to several partners about the possibility of new IFE and Wi-Fi systems.

“I know the digitalization process for PIA will take some time, but we are on the right track,” Sheikh said.

Kurt Hofmann,