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Flag carrier running on only 19 planes: PIA chairman

July 24, 2014


Three new Airbus 320 aircraft are being inducted into the existing fleet, PIA chairman said. — File photo
Three new Airbus 320 aircraft are being inducted into the existing fleet, PIA chairman said. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the country national flag carrier, is currently operating with just 19 airworthy planes out of a total fleet of 34 and needs new aircraft to survive, PIA chairman Muhammad Ali Gardezi told the Senate Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and Privileges on Wednesday.

“We are doing our best to keep the organisation buoyant. Three new Airbus 320 aircraft are being inducted into the existing fleet. One is already here, the other will arrive in a few days and a third in October,” said the PIA chairman, who is also the Aviation Division’s federal secretary.

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The matter came up after the committee spent over an hour and a half in discussing why Senator Shirala Mallick’s flight was delayed 30 minutes from Islamabad to Karachi, allegedly forcing her to miss a meeting. She urged the chair of the committee to compensate her; however, her request was politely declined.

In April, during a session of the Senate, Ms Mallick had moved a privilege motion regarding the behaviour of PIA officials. The senator alleged that the staff in Rawal Lounge at the Islamabad airport was inefficient.

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The problems of PIA were not on the agenda, but when the senators shared their unpleasant experiences PIA Chairman Muhammad Ali Gardezi defended the organisation by explaining that the national flag carrier was struggling to sustain itself.

Four out of six twin-engine propeller ATRs, five Airbus 310s, eight Boeing 777s and one Airbus 320 are operational, Gardezi told the members, adding, “We need a minimum of 34 aircraft flying all the time. We can do better, because we have lucrative routes. We are desperately trying to induct new airplanes.”

While calling to revamp PIA’s engineering department, Committee Chairman Senator retired Colonel Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi urged the PIA chief to ground all the 747 Jumbo Jet aircraft, before any accident takes place, which he believed had outlived their operational lives.

However, Gardezi explained how the PIA’s engineering department could make the three 747s fly for another year, after necessary overhauling of the aircraft.

One of the 747s was already made operational and was being utilised by airline.

He explained how the organisation believed that the aircraft has four engines and could fly with even two in an emergency situation. Nonetheless, the jumbo jets would be scrapped after the new planes are inducted into the fleet, which would take approximately a year.

“However, we have grounded two 737 airplanes that have completed their flying hours, spread over 25 to 26 years,” he said, explaining how PIA was now going to scrap these planes.

He also told the meeting that PIA was negotiating with European companies to induct five more twin-engine propeller ATRs and a new Boeing 737 aircraft, to accommodate passengers on local routes.

“The prime minister has given the go-ahead to acquire five Boeing 777 aircraft that got delayed because of a controversial agreement between PIA and Boeing Company. The government has made the $100 million down payments for these aircraft, but does not have sufficient funds to make additional payments,” said Gardezi, explaining the details of the $1.5 billion ‘flawed’ deal to acquire these planes.

Members also believed that private airlines should also be engaged to fly domestic and far-flung destinations, to lessen the load on PIA, a possibility that Muhammad Ali Gardezi would be looking into.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2014