KARACHI: The Pakistan Inter­national Airlines (PIA) has accumulated liabilities of over Rs300 billion and an additional loss of over Rs5.6bn is being added to this amount every month, the PIA management told a Senate committee at a briefing on Wednesday.

The panel was informed that the airline earned around Rs7.5 billion a month while its expenses were over Rs 13.14bn.

Major monthly expenses are over Rs 4.4bn in loan and mark-up repayment, over Rs 2.6bn over fuel and over Rs 1.6bn over salaries. The accumulated loss / liabilities of over Rs300bn include over Rs186bn of bank loans, Rs40bn of Civil Aviation Authority charges/ dues, over Rs13. 5bn to be paid to the Pakistan State Oil and over Rs 4.5bn to the Federal Bureau of Revenue, etc.

The briefing was arranged for the Senate committee that had been set up to review performance of the PIA. The three- member panel is headed by Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional with retired General Abdul Qayoom of the PML-Nawaz and Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan Peoples Party as its members.

The senators grilled the airline management and wanted to know how such a (huge) loss had accumulated, during whose tenure the PIA’s downfall had started and why nothing had been done to turn the situation around. They were annoyed that the airline had not provided the report / information that the committee had asked for during its last meeting in Islamabad. Even the working paper for today’s meeting had not been provided, they deplored.

The committee chief Mr Shah also expressed concern over qualification of the members of the PIA board of directors and said that one of them was a bottler, another’s qualification was “schooling in UK”, yet another one was just a graduate and the fourth was a wire manufacturer, as could be seen in the list provided to the committee. None of them had any relation with aviation, Mr Shah noted and asked what input in planning and vision the members could be giving to the improve PIA affairs. Mr Shah directed the PIA management to send details of qualification and experience required to become a director in the PIA and qualifications and experience of the sitting directors to the committee for review.

He asked why the report about an aircraft being leased out to make a controversial film in Malta and reasons for selling it reportedly just for 50,000 Euros had not yet been provided to him as promised by the management.

Senator Qayoom said that he was disappointed that the PIA had not provided the required information / input before the briefing. He asked the management to give its recommendations to the committee so that it could formulate its recommendations on revival of the national flag career, and send it to the government.

Senator Babar said that the government must ask the national airlines when access to overseas airlines in the country was being granted and added that it should be done on a reciprocal basis.

PIA chief Bernd Hildenbrand said that most of the poor financial performance of the airline was owing to the aviation policy.

With the open skies policy, he added, the PIA with its ageing fleet was facing difficulties in competing with airlines like Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Oman Air etc which had better aircraft and crew.

He said that in 2016 the PIA had been successful in getting more passengers and generating more revenue than the previous year

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2017

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