The 76-page document on cabinet-approved NAP 2019 dedicates two pages to the most important topic — ‘traffic rights’; one the separator and other one-third blank page with following six lines under the heading ‘Bilateral Air Service Agreements’.
“Pakistan shall pursue bilateral liberalised policy with other countries on the principle of commercial reciprocity upon organic market growth, number of seats and code sharing, when it is in the national interest. However, measures would be in place to mitigate detrimental effects of any capacity dumping.
“The existing cargo policy shall continue, but restricted to third, fourth and fifth Freedom Traffic Rights for the designated airlines of our bilateral partners.”
It does not impose any restriction on signing ‘Open Skies’ agreement. Liberal can mean Open Sky or can lead to the grant of unjustified traffic rights. So there is no tabdeeli (change). However, the use of term ‘organic market growth’ is welcome.
The existing cargo policy should have been repeated here so that this becomes the final and only document. The existing policy allows cargo open skies. The indirect method of keeping the policy has probably been adopted to remove the word ‘open sky’ from this document.
Restricting cargo to third, fourth and fifth freedom is not logical. Does it mean that airlines like Emirates, Etihad Airways or Qatar Airways cannot issue Airway Bill for destinations beyond their home base?
This condition should have applied to passenger traffic. I say so because in one Air Services Agreement, the government has liberally allowed sixth freedom traffic, which is never allowed under any agreement and has liberally gone beyond to allow it with continuation of same flight number and without change of aircraft.
There are chances that some wise guy in the Civil Aviation Authority will commit the same mistake again to the disadvantage of Pakistani airlines.
Ex-Director Marketing & Corporate Planning, PIA
Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2019