LAHORE -  PIA management fears foreign airlines could assert a hold on certain international routes due to delay in procurement of A-320 planes, sources in the national flag carrier said on Sunday.

According to the business plan prepared by the PIA chairman, five A-320 planes were to be purchased by March, but this schedule got changed and now arrival of planes is expected in this June or July.  Sources said PIA had to postpone its plan of procurement of A-320 planes due to financial constraints. They said PIA management had also called back its pilots undergoing an A-320 simulation course in Sri Lanka.

Mashood Tajwar, spokesman for PIA, meanwhile said no pilot was sent to Sri Lanka, adding that the simulation course was scheduled for June.

Sources said PIA management might now purchase four to five planes since the government had not included cash injection in the bailout plan for the national flag carrier. They however added that PIA took loan from National Bank of Pakistan and paid a chunk of it to leasing company for delivery of four A-320 planes.

Sources claimed that belated procurement of planes might damage the passenger market for PIA since foreign airlines were occupying international routes to enhance their business.

A PIA senior officer seeking anonymity said PIA would have to engage its planes in next Hajj operation that would lead to curtailment of the flights on international routes.