By Alexander Cornwell
DUBAI (Reuters) - Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is evaluating an order for wide-body Airbus <AIR.PA> and Boeing <BA.N> jets as it looks to upgrade its ageing fleet, an executive for the state-owned airline said on Tuesday.
"Boeing 777X would be a good option," the airline's executive director of human resources and works, Raheel Ahmed, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai, adding that PIA is also looking at the Airbus A330 and A350 models.
PIA would consider purchasing the aircraft directly from the manufacturer and financing the order through a sale and leaseback arrangement, when an airline sells a jet to a lessor who then leases it back. It would also consider a direct leasing agreement, known as a dry lease.
Ahmed did not say when PIA would order the jets or how many it could buy. It has a fleet of 38 narrow-body and wide-body Airbus and Boeing jets, with three A310s to be retired on Dec. 31, he added.
Ahmed also said PIA would cut its 18,000 workforce by between 3,000 and 3,500 employees by the end of 2017 as the Pakistan government looks to turn around the loss-making airline and sell-off a 49 percent stake.
However, PIA later said Ahmed's figures were incorrect, and no decision had as yet been taken on how many jobs would be cut or over what timeframe.
A meeting between Pakistan's Privatization Commission and PIA top management was also held on Tuesday, "to determine the best suitable restructuring model to make PIA into a viable entity," a senior government official who attended the meeting told Reuters.
The official said restructuring would be done in two phases, carving out non-essential units within three to six months "to attain a clean balance sheet," followed by the gradual carving out of other business units.
The airline would spin-off four "special business units" from January 2017, starting with its catering business and later its flight training, engineering and courier businesses.
The units are planned to operate independently of PIA with their own general managers and marketing teams. PIA would later look to sell a stake in the units if they are profitable.
(Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik in Islamabad; Editing by Mark Potter and Alexander Smith)