A PIA ad from the glorious days.
A PIA ad from the glorious days.

“I am capable of flying for any international airline as I have an experience of over two decades with the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA),” says a pilot who has recently been sacked from the national flag carrier for holding a ‘fake’ secondary school certificate.

“It is not my fault. Ask the PIA management why they did not get my certificate verified 20 years ago when I joined as first pilot,” the seemingly unabashed pilot says, further arguing that it is not the SSC certificate that matters in their profession, it is the commercial flying licence issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

“A pilot primarily gets a job in any airline on the strength of his flying licence and completion of required number of flying hours.”

He is among the other nine pilots the management recently sacked for having fake matriculation or intermediate degrees. PIA spokesman Sultan Hasan confirms that four pilots have been sacked for fake degrees and other issues. However, he is of the view that it is not the degree but the experience of a pilot that matters. “A plane does not fly with degrees,” he insists. “We send degrees of the employees to their respective institutions for verification on their appointment. But we don’t pursue in case (the institutions) don’t respond.” During the last five years, Mr Sultan says over 250 employees in different departments of the airline had been fired for holding fake degrees.

The Pakistan Airlines Pilots’ Association president Capt Suhail Baluch says the sacked senior pilots, having vast experience and thousands of flying hours, are an asset for the national airlines. “We should take care of our assets instead of losing them after huge investment by the airline on their training and grooming.” Capt Baluch further says that a pilot becomes a truly expensive commodity when he/she acquires command of an aircraft; by then the airline has spent at least Rs40 million on his/her training. It is only after such a tedious process that the pilot gets certified to fly a Boeing-777.

“Ironically we are giving away this asset built over years to other airlines which are not bothered what kind of objection he or she has on his intermediate or matriculation certificates acquired years ago. In the field of flying what matters most is the flying license acquisition and subsequent trainings,” he argues.

Baluch believes that there should be punishment in such a case (holding fake degree) but it should not be dismissal as it serves to punish the airline more than the pilot. “We will have to reinvest in new recruits while the sacked pilots will immediately get jobs in private airlines.” At present PIA has over 550 pilots.

While pilots may not have any immediate problems working with PIA, employees of other departments have one major complaint — low salary.

“I am a Group-7 officer and after serving PIA for the last 18 years or so I am just getting Rs50,000,” says one official who told Dawn that lower cadre employees (Groups1 to 4) were really low paid. “Recently 30 per cent of new recruitment in Group-3 as assistants quit their jobs for being low paid. PIA was paying them Rs11,000 per month. It is a myth that PIA employees are sitting pretty in terms of salary.”

A flight attendant points out how low paid employees and crew get lured into dishonest acts. “You see a good number of meal trolleys go missing when planes return from foreign flights. Similarly, smuggling of cigarette packs to European destinations by crew members is common because of its high price there,” she reveals.

She also confidently comments that corruption in PIA is not a crime. “Even those who get caught red-handed get away easily. There are no checks and balances in this organisation.” However, a few months ago an air hostess was arrested in Lahore for trying to smuggle heroin to a Gulf country. Investigation is underway.

As uncertainty prevails in PIA because of its financial mess and bleak future, the employees also find a difficult working environment. “The union has grown strong during the PPP government and transfers and postings are being done on political grounds,” says one employee. He says only those employees are getting promoted who have “strong political connections.”

Shaukat Jamshed, president of PIA’s engineering association, comments on the over-staffing in the national flag carrier. At present PIA has about 18,000 employees. “The total revenue of PIA spent on employees is between 16 to 18 per cent while foreign airlines spend around 33 to 40 per cent on employees. So to say that downsizing is one of the solutions to PIA’s woes is a misconception,” he says. He believes that if downsizing will help improve matters in PIA then engineering, catering and security departments should be outsourced as they are in foreign airlines.

Mr Jamshed, who has been associated with PIA for 40 years, says the management will have to enhance the salary and allowances of technicians as they are getting jobs abroad on handsome salary packages.

Updated Dec 23, 2012 05:28am

Comments (Closed)


smhusain1
Dec 23, 2012 07:18pm
The Civil Aviation Licence, be it Commercial or Airline Transport Pilot, takes into consideration the educational qualifications required as a prerequisite for issue. No major airline or even minor would hire a pilot let go by another without a background reference check from the parent airline.
Oz
Dec 23, 2012 07:54pm
10 grands?? I should work for you buddy!! lolz
Kamran Khan
Dec 23, 2012 10:20am
I make more money than the pilot of PIA, I get paid 1400$ a week after taxes in U.S, I work at Zinc mine in US. Pilots not only in Pakistan but also in U.S gets low salaries. I wouldn't put my life in endanger by flying plans. I rather die on the ground than in the air because flying jets is very risky job. Even though people say that cars has more accidents than the air crashes but in car accident there is some chances of survival but if the jet crashes than that would be the end of your life.
Hadi Abdul - Jacobabad
Dec 23, 2012 12:12pm
As a freelancer in UK I get paid 10,000 Pounds a month - life and death is in the hands of Allah (SWT). PIA pilots are the best in the world. The pakistanis started Emeriates Airlines of UAE.
Ali
Dec 23, 2012 03:48pm
Here is what I have to say, to these pilots who are sent home packing. And their sympathisers. Does ethics and integrity has any standing? Or that does not matter? PIA is a national flag carrier. Does it matter that many including pilots, in whose hands we rest the lives of ours and our near and dear ones, not only violated rules flagrantly, but also now defending it. Would you trust a doctor who you found to be lieing/ defrauding in his/her professional dealings? trust him/her for your health and those who you love? They could be competent, sure, but trust in humans rely not just on their ability to do something,, but also to do it ethically, morally, and by witholding professional principles. We often cry that those violates laws, get away easily. Sacking of the pilots may have been a bit harsher. May be, very heavy fines on them, discilplinary proceedings could be a preferred by some to more befitting a punishment. But we also have to understand, that some issues need to be made an example. Although PIA still have a long way to ensuring accountability at all levels and in all its sections, to help restore trust of the public, this may not be a bad start.
Ali
Dec 23, 2012 03:42pm
Does ethics and integrity has any standing? Or that does not matter? PIA is a national flag carrier. Does it matter that many including pilots, in whose hands we rest of lives of ours and our near and dear ones, flagrantly, not only violated a rule, but also now defend it. Would you trust a doctor who you found to be lieing, trust him/her for your health and those who you love? We often cry that those violates laws, get away easily. Sacking of the pilots may have been a bit harsher. May be, very heavy fines on them, discilplinary proceedings could be a preferred by some to more befitting a punishment. But we also have to understand, that some issues need to be made an example. Although PIA still have a long way to ensuring accountability at all levels and in all its sections, to help restore trust of the public, this may not be a bad start.
Waqar Ahmad Khan
Dec 23, 2012 01:14pm
The following are the facts of the matter. 1- When they submitted these documents these pilots and other employees signed a written statement that if at any point any information that they have submitted is found to be false then they may be dismissed at any point of their career. When they submitted such documents they took away the right of another deserving person at the entry position of PIA. Thus their entire service and career has built up upon a dishonest act one that they have no hope of contesting in any court and thus they have resorted to using the media. The fact that such a person is responsible for the lives of about 300 persons 30,000 feet up in the air is the fact that should be focused upon and no number of flying hours can change this fact. 2. This is not the first time that the management of PIA has taken this step. PIA took this step more than 5 years ago and then gave a time period to it's employees who had such degrees to upgrade their education standards so that the investment PIA had made in them would not go to waste. These pilots assumed that no actions could be taken against them due to the strength of PALPA and their own connections. Thus, at the expiry of the time limit given to these employees this step was taken. Was this a fair step? I think so. 3. Yes, PIA is NOT over staffed. with only 13-14 % of the budget going to the employees, the facts are correct that the employees are the lowest paid in the aviation sector in this region. Its a service industry with the highest standards required from its' personnel. If they are not happy , how can they keep the customers happy? This holds true for every cadre. PIA needs drastic re-organization and restructuring. For this political as well as management will and leadership are required. Solutions are what are required, not pointing fingers. I have been working in this organization for the last 13 years and I have found this to be an incredible organization full or resilient, devout and hardworking personnel at ALL levels. From cleaner to director , everyone takes pride in being PIA, even though it seems it has become a social stigma to be a part of PIA. This is the biggest asset of PIA and even though things are bad, they are not impossible.
Jalaluddin S. Hussain
Dec 23, 2012 05:51am
As one who has himself worked in PIA for more than a decade, back in the 70s, I am also of the firm opinion that it is the technical certification as a pilot and the actual flying hours, which evaluates competency and not the allegedly 'fake' SSC certificate.
smhusain1
Dec 24, 2012 11:16pm
Further to my comment yesterday, the Commercial Pilot Licence or Airline Transport Pilot Licence cease their validity if irregular or fraudulent entries are made for obtaining them.
Balochi Cynic
Dec 25, 2012 06:15pm
Raisani did not uttered his famous words( degree degree hoti hy) for nothing.
smhusain1
Dec 25, 2012 09:34pm
An accident can happen because somebody in a chain of events even in an office linking it did something as far back as six months ago. The pilot is not necessarily the cause of the accident but the final tipping stone that upsets the cart.The term pilot error is hence a misnomer, the more modern term used these days is human factors.