35 flights cancelled; PIA management, pilots blame each other for crisis

Published October 3, 2015
PIA Chairman Nasser N. Jaffer says he does not know why the pilots had resorted to such behaviour.—Reuters/File
PIA Chairman Nasser N. Jaffer says he does not know why the pilots had resorted to such behaviour.—Reuters/File

KARACHI: Passengers continued to face hardship as the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) had to cancel many flights for the second consecutive day on Friday.

At least 35 flights were cancelled and several others were delayed or re-routed.

The PIA management has blamed its pilots for the crisis while the Pakistan Air Lines Pilots Association (Palpa) accused the management of inefficiency and mismanagement.

Palpa says it has only asked its members to “go by the book” while the management claims the pilots call in sick at the last moment which results in the cancellation of flights.

Take a look: PIA directed to start flights between Skardu, Gilgit

Speaking at a press conference, PIA Chairman Nasser N. Jaffer said he did not know why the pilots had resorted to such behaviour. He urged them to discuss their grievances with the management during the ongoing negotiations about their working conditions and salary. He said that as head of the organisation he was responsible for any troubles faced by the passengers. According to a PIA official carrying out negotiations with Palpa, the airline was currently paying about Rs3.2 billion to the pilots as salary and perks annually. He claimed that Palpa had demanded an increase of Rs3.2bn in salaries.

Flight Operations Director Salman Azhar said Palpa’s “go by the book” step could be managed but the pilots’ calling in sick at the last moment could not be.

He added that on Thursday 14 pilots reported sick and this was unusual and difficult to manage.

PIA Workers CBA Union chief Shamim Akmal said the management had been too apologetic towards the pilots and had been giving in to most of their demands.

Pointing out that the workers who were paid paltry sums as compared to the pilots would not allow anyone to hold the airline hostage. He urged Palpa to start negotiations with the management to resolve the issues so that the airline did not suffer any further. In a statement, Palpa’s chief Amir Hashmi defended the pilots’ actions, adding that the crisis was a result of mismanagement on the part of an inefficient management.

He said the flights that should be operated by two sets of crewmembers were planned to be operated by one. He added that if the pilots operated the flights they would be liable to be punished by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

He clarified that only the flights where the pilots feared they would attract CAA penalties were affected. He said “we have been painstakingly operating such flights just to save our jobs and our licences,” adding, that the management had panicked and instead of correcting the ill-planned rosters, blamed the pilots for the crisis.

He added that Palpa only wanted the airline to be run in a professional manner and as per the laws.

In a statement, CAA spokesman Pervez George said: “Palpa has become a source of threat to the national carrier and responsible for financial losses to the nation by dictating their personal agenda to the national airline and the State of Pakistan (CAA) by deliberately disregarding the flight safety rules and regulations which are made for the safety of passengers travelling by air, people on the ground and valuable national assets (aircraft).”

Published in Dawn, October 3rd , 2015

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