A Pakistan International Airlines passenger plane prepares to take off from the Benazir International Airport in Islamabad. File / Reuters
A Malaysian court ordered on Wednesday the immediate release of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane detained in the Southeast Asian nation nearly two weeks ago over a British court case about its lease.
Malaysia seized the Boeing 777 aircraft on Jan.15 after a court allowed an application by lessor Peregrine Aviation Charlie Limited to keep it grounded until the result of a $14-million lease dispute with PIA in Britain.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court ordered the release after both sides said they had reached an amicable settlement of the dispute, involving two planes leased to PIA, a lawyer for the airline said.
"Peregrine has agreed to withdraw its suit against Pakistan International Airlines Corp (PIAC) and for the injunction orders to be set aside," said its lawyer, Kwan Will Sen.
"With this, the two Boeing aircraft operated by PIAC would be released with immediate effect."
Pakistan's national carrier is now readying a crew for the plane to resume a passenger flight home by Friday, its spokesman, Abdullah Khan, said.
The two jets, leased in 2015 by Dublin-based AerCap, the world’s largest aircraft lessor, are part of a fleet it sold to Peregrine Aviation Co Ltd, an investment unit of NCB Capital, the brokerage arm of National Commercial Bank SJSC, in 2018.
AerCap, which continued as part of the agreement to provide lease management services to Peregrine, has declined to make any comment. Lawyers for Peregrine did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
PIA issued a statement citing chief executive Arshad Malik as welcoming the ICAO conclusion as a positive development for aviation in Pakistan, which would pave the way for the resumption of PIA flights to Britain and the rest of Europe.
The US Department of Transportation had in April granted PIA permission to operate 12 direct flights to the US to repatriate people stranded by the coronavirus pandemic.
PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan said the management has now written to the Civil Aviation Authority to urgently provide the list of other licences found to be dubious and all of them will be indefinitely grounded pending inquiries against them.
Airlines in 10 countries had demanded proof of valid flying licences for their Pakistani pilots after it emerged about a third of Pakistan International Airlines aviators were holding "bogus or suspicious" licences. In all, the foreign airlines asked for proof of 176 Pakistani pilot licences.
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