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Carry on, PIA


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In 2006, PIA introduced new tail designs, representing each of Pakistan’s four provinces. – File photo
In 2006, PIA introduced new tail designs, representing each of Pakistan’s four provinces. – File photo

“Air accidents are the most unforgiving as they don’t even give you a second to save yourself. And 97 per cent of all air accidents occur due to human error. This is because today’s sophisticated aircraft is not meant to crash due to mechanical problems. It only requires good maintenance and handling by trained personnel and you need  good governance to take care of these two things. But if you can’t even do that then something has to give and a fatal accident occurs such as Pakistan International Airlines [PIA] Flight 268 in Nepal, and Airblue and Bhoja Air crashes in Islamabad,” says PIA’s former Managing Director Arif Ali Khan Abbasi.

“It’s inexcusable for a pilot to fly into a cliff like what happened with the PIA Airbus in Nepal killing all of the 167 passengers on board. But to date there has been no investigative report on it published publicly. Unless you tell the world what you have done and what you found out to avoid it in future you will never get the travelling public’s confidence,” he explains.

“Absence of facts gives birth to rumours. Maybe they think that the information is too sensitive to share with the general public but if so it is even more important that the people know about it,” he reasons.

“PIA’s staff was perhaps the most sophisticated manpower but it has now turned complacent due to the grants coming its way. It started in Musharraf’s time and now the employees feel that they don’t really have to work with the money coming in anyway,” he shares.

He continues, “Corporate identity is a very important thing for a company’s image. PIA’s corporate identity was one of the best in the world. Its aircraft tail was the most prominent one. The bright red Swiss Air tail only came second to our green one. But today, PIA has three or four colour schemes. If one aircraft tail looks like a Jamawar sari, the other is another strange design. Whoever designed these has no concept of corporate identity, I’m sorry to say. People don’t understand the value of these things. It has killed the pride of this only multinational company directly competing with foreign companies,” the one-time director and three times general manager of the airline says with regret.

Comments (33) Closed

Dilawer Dec 23, 2012 09:17am
What makes them the best? They are after all the product of the same society. There is no way to check if they even can pass the below average score. The current accidents show that they are not the best.
raika45 Dec 23, 2012 01:41pm
When the whole system of administration of your country is collapsing, why should PIA be different? One really wonders with such chaos in your country and the government playing dumb , how is it your nation can still stumble along.There has to be an end to this.Only problem is who is going to do it.Your army tried and failed.Your democracy providers are also not doing a good job.The only ones in the spotlight are the Taliban and some group called the something,something Pakistan that blow up people at their will like one of your political leader today.
observer Dec 23, 2012 02:38pm
Most of PIA pilots are hired on recommendation of some big shot. Almost all are technically incompetent but there is no benchmark to check against. There are pilot errors almost every month.
Ekone Dec 23, 2012 09:22am
I stopped flying pia in 95, due to dangerous 747s and extremely poor service/
S Ghaznavi Dec 23, 2012 09:46am
Privatisation of PIA is the only solution.
Farhan Dec 23, 2012 10:10am
The current state of PIA is reflective of what has happened to Pakistan in general. It has become subservient to select few (it's own employes and the Pakistani elite). Everytime I fly PIA I have to convince myself hard that this time I might have a better experience and every time I am proven wrong. This airline would never change until we as a nation change. Genuine accountability for all actions and operations is what is needed. Pakistanis need to rediscover the basic concepts of merit, civility and nationhood. PIA needs to work on the same basic concepts. In order to regain the confidence of it's customer it has to show that it cares for them and value their opinion.
munsif ansari Dec 23, 2012 07:33pm
PIA needs honest,professional and courageous Directors who can fight corruption and are able to say "no" to outside pressure for undue favours and contracts. Additionally superceding professional officers and promoting "unorofessional sifarishis" is at its peak. ACRs are being given as outstanding to dumb and non professional which needs to be stopped for PIA to survive
MS Dec 23, 2012 10:09am
I stopped flying PIA since long - for reasons see other's comments. I am planning a short trip to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia. The only problem is Lahore / Karachi leg of the trip, I have little choice.
Reality Check Please? Dec 23, 2012 08:53am
Dear Hassan, Pakistan does have its share of the problems; just like other developing countries including India....I guess Pakistan's every problem is highlighted and over-analysed... The concept of a state for muslims was correct as can be seen from the continuing plight of 170 Million muslims in India. The other test for this ideology was that despite Bangladesh's partition from Pakistan, it did not re-join India despite Indias wishes! Third example of that is that the Kashmiris still do not wish to stay with India, whether they choose Pakistan or Full Independence is another issue! The current security situation has been brought about by 2 massive wars in our neighbourhood and the blow back from there...Normality will return and the moderate classes of Pakistan will rise again! Pakistan Zindabad! Pakistan Paindabad!
payertolaysorshe Dec 23, 2012 01:53pm
nothing against pakistan or anything but why bring india in this. why is this india india india, indian muslims, indian this indian that..... this is why in this entire south east asia no problem gets solved as we are always comparing to others and get defensive about our own failures. my condition is bad look at india its worse, that does not mean your condition improves anymore. why would u give a shit to india right now, trying solving your own problem before comparing to others.
A Ahmad Dec 23, 2012 01:54pm
PIA started as a young and dynamic airline with young employees in a forward looking and inspiring world and quickly took a lead with the best possible equipment ( Lockheed Super Constellations and Boeing 707 ) which were effectively advertised, just like Emirates advertises its flagship Airbus A380 today. In the 60's and 70's Karachi fell smack at the desired location for making a stop for refueling and we were on the world aviation map. This was an advantage for an airline whose base station was a hub. ( Just like Aden was strategically located for steamships). Now airplanes can easily overfly Karachi and by providing a world class airport, Dubai caught this hub and Emirates took over. Most of the traffic into or out of Pakistan is from Punjab and KPK, best served from Lahore and Peshawar, but PIA still calls on Karachi unless absolutely contra-indicated. This has to do with the employees being mostly Karachi based, since PIA's inception, regardless of ethnic background and this has caused an unchanging magnetism for Karachi even though it makes no sense. A look at PIA fares will tell the story like no debate can. The pride of PIA was its cockpit and cabin crew, who are today more well paid, comparatively speaking ,vis a vis other Pakistan based jobs, than ever before unless , like them you start comparing yourself in a world environment. So most of the marketable stuff left for other airlines and most have taken dual nationality also, all contributing to the general feeling about the airline as a lumbering old cow giving out its last milk and making no sense to take to the vet. The current average age of any airline's employees mysteriously reflects its performance, though this is conveniently refuted by the experience argument. The average age and hence lethargy/ lack of energy of PIA staffers is now among the highest in the airline industry ( I do not have the exact figures so cant press this anymore). This is what you see when 1st class seats refuse to tilt, panels are seen crudely screwed back , paint peeling off, Crew tired of handing passengers and engineering staff arguing constantly with airplane crew instead of a teamwork. This is also a clear lack of leadership, lack of pride in what you do and sign of a highly politicized organization. The amount of money the Govt is putting in a "National carrier" when this is an outdated concept, is criminal as better service is available through other airlines, whichever country these are registered in and public is not being better served by this financing. The day the illiterate public are shown the Govt. dole in cash and concessions to PIA , would be an end of this once great airline. Finally if the so called cumulative experience ( and are we not tired of hearing that PIA helped set up Singapore and Emirates) cannot extricate itself out of its own vomit, no new head or CEO can. Unfortunately if you go through one meeting of its employees, collective bargaining agents and PALPA etc., you would realize that this corporate body is not curable. Solution is to declare bankruptcy, sell PIA name to the highest bidder, (or fade into history like Pan Am and so many other greats.) and spend Govt money thus saved on education or improving Civil Aviation airports. This will break a few hearts like mine but its time to pull the plug.
Nadeem Dec 23, 2012 03:32pm
I too used to think that PIA still has good pilots. I frequently fly from KSA to ISB and so have flown on PIA, Gulf Air, Saudia, Oman Air and Etihad. Would you believe that the most bumpy landing at Islamabad is always in a PIA plane. If other airlines can land on the same ruunway smoothly, it must mean that PIA's pilots are substandard
Saeed Dec 23, 2012 04:46pm
No one mention UNION which is a main culprit. Traing and critria of PIA crew still one of best. I have no problem in plane or ticket. I come cross few people who never travel with PIA but they have lot of negative comments. While traveling few time from Islamabad to Chicago , I found passengers already set there mind even before check out that service is horrible , crew is impolite , and no matter what this is last time we are travelling with this airline. And funny thing when same people disrespect by other airline they smile back and say thank you.
Khan Dec 23, 2012 11:22am
a nation who can elect fake degree holders, leaders who do politics on national institutions by overcrowding them with party workers. such people need massive awareness campaign. Here in UK any wrong activity by any politician in any national institute can trigger protests all over the UK and it only ends with the resignation of the guilty party. People will never elect him or her again. This is call real revenge of democracy.
Reality Check Please? Dec 23, 2012 11:15am
Three things have happened: 1) Great Employees of PIA are leaving to join Middle East Airlines! 2) Mis-management of the Air Industry as a whole for the benefit of the few! 3) Other Regional Airlines have gone past PIA!
Mr.T Dec 23, 2012 04:33pm
Those who are used to best and proud of now its become shame of. Who's fault is it ? If it management then who can change the management ? If not whats the alternate ? Everybody knows the problem but who wants to solve it ? Media or Judiciary or Government or people are waiting for Angles to came and solve Pakistan problem ? When everybody accept the shame and want to live in shame then just leave them alone and see what happen next.
Hassan Dec 23, 2012 07:46am
This little piece might as well be about Pakistan itself. A country carved out of the Subcontinent 65 years ago that fought false wars, taught false history in schools, was maligned by the military and inevtably almost consumed by religious bigotry.
Ekone Dec 23, 2012 04:08pm
I do not think Pakistan Govt will ever allow that, due to free rides, only solution is success of current private Pakistani airlines and more airline licences to be issued to local businessmen, and those airlines becoming prime bearer of national flag, and capture market share, higher level of competition among local airlines and allowing more international airlines to land in Pakistan is only solution. PIA is lost cause and history of Pakistan. Future is new Pakistani Airlines.
Agha Ata Dec 23, 2012 03:50pm
My friend RC, there are three things happening in almost everything in Pakistan as everything is going worse from worse in more severity and intensity.
Wahid Farooqi Dec 23, 2012 03:34pm
PIA was one time pride until mid eighties when every youngster wished to become a part of the team. Unfortunately the political interference killing the merit and ensued high corruption destroyed such a an asset. Visit any Pakistani airports the reality will become obvious instantly. The solution is in HONESTY and merit which is unfortunately scarce in our nation.
Zeeshan Dec 23, 2012 02:00pm
It is very sad that at the time of their service none of these administrators diagnose these issues so that it can be addressed and improved. It is easy to criticize than to put constructive efforts. Now the time has passed for you sir. These articles will not make any difference. Thanks for your information.
Disappointed Flyer Dec 23, 2012 06:17am
Have traveled once in PIA, which was quite recent, from Hong Kong to Lahore and I have to say it was the worst experience of my life! If you
Dilawer Dec 23, 2012 06:47am
How about starting with selecting only the qualified people. How about stop appointing ex-military personal as MDs and on other management positions. Too tough to do in a corrupt society which is busy turning everything into dirt. Why PIA be any different?
Reality Check Please? Dec 23, 2012 07:01am
Pakistan Zindabad! Pakistan PIA-n-da-BAD!!!!
Reality Check Please? Dec 23, 2012 07:02am
PIA should be Privatised in Part atleast.....
Atif Dec 23, 2012 07:10am
Top airline companies in the world had to downsize and go for layoffs to sustain their growth but all PIA does is go for extra recruitments and back paying everyone.
Shahid Dec 23, 2012 07:15am
I agree with you! A couple of years ago on a flight from Heathrow to Islamabad i asked for the coffee and insead tea was given i guess due to an error. I reminded the hostess that i actually needed coffee she took tea cup from me and never came back. Apart from this due to on going maintenance issues and aging air crafts i prefer flying Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways due to neat interior where you feel the hostpitality and aircraft condtions are pretty good. Nevertheless i consider PIA pilots one of the best pilots in the world. It is the organization that is collapsing.
KHALID Dec 23, 2012 07:19am
PIA can not be muchdifferent from all other PAKISTAN!
Shahid Awan Dec 23, 2012 08:17pm
Top airline companies? PIA is not a company anymore. It is a govt department under the Ministry of Defence and is being used by successive civil & military governments to appoint their favorites at all levels.
Hassan Dec 24, 2012 04:42am
I sincerely hope that your dreams materialize soon however I have very little hope for Pakistan. The division of society is too skewed in favor of the gullible, who lack access to education and are thus conveniently led to be bigots. The Imam in the mosque wields disproportionate muscle when most people sitting in the hall are uneducated blue-collar workers. As for history, I am not here to debate and I harbor no hatred for India, which despite its numerous problems, is on a path of economic strength. Meanwhile, in Pakistan's 65 years, just ONE government has completed its term. That speaks volumes about political stability; not to mention the Baloch separatist movement, which will only aggravate with time (in addition to atrocities of Pakistan's armed forces in Bangladesh, brutal genocide of minorities, Zia's draconian laws and the ensuing legacy, religion not being a personal matter etc). Obviously, I wish the best to Pakistan but I see little reason for hope. [My only bit will be supporting girls' education because I see that as a pivotal piece of the puzzle. With one parent ignorant of her rights, a son can easily be trained to be a suicide bomber. I try and do what I can....] Best wishes,
cheap tickets to pakistan Dec 27, 2012 12:53pm
what pia needs is young innovators to promote, run, coordinate and move on with the times, airblue has set a very good standard by employing young enthusiastic people.
marchant Dec 28, 2012 08:42pm
marchant Dec 28, 2012 08:29pm