PIA tussle with pilots’ body may affect flights next month

Updated August 15, 2019

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The domestic and foreign flight operation of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is likely to be affected from next month as its management and a pilots’ body are at loggerheads with each other over the state of affairs in the national flag carrier, it emerged on Wednesday. — Wikimedia Commons/File
The domestic and foreign flight operation of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is likely to be affected from next month as its management and a pilots’ body are at loggerheads with each other over the state of affairs in the national flag carrier, it emerged on Wednesday. — Wikimedia Commons/File

KARACHI: The domestic and foreign flight operation of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is likely to be affected from next month as its management and a pilots’ body are at loggerheads with each other over the state of affairs in the national flag carrier, it emerged on Wednesday.

If not resolved timely, passengers would be the ultimate victims of the tussle between the airline management and the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa) because of flights delays and cancellation Palpa’s list of grievances is quite long, some of which are: transfer of airline’s pilots and other staff members from Karachi to Islamabad and other cities in Punjab as part of PIA’s new business plan.

The transfers of a large number of staff members to Islamabad is being viewed as an attempt by the new PIA management helmed by Air Marshal Arshad Malik to relocate the airline’s head office from Karachi to the federal capital. However, the PIA clarified earlier that the transfers did not “by any way [means] transferring the airline’s head office”.

Recently, Palpa blamed the PIA management for “non-serious attitude” as it had not “paid any heed to repeated reminders” regarding “continuous violation of its own flight operation manual” as well as of local and international “safety guidelines that put both the aircraft and passengers’ safety at risk”.

And earlier this month, its general body meeting decided that due to “deteriorating working conditions and deliberate compromise on flight safety, the PIA pilots’ fraternity will not work against the Civil Aviation Authority and International Civil Aviation Organisation safety rules, after post-Haj operations”.

The post-Haj operation has already begun and will end on Sept 14. Till then, Palpa said, “in case of any mishap, PIA management will be held responsible”.

A spokesman for the pilots’ body said that the pilots would take all-out measures for the safety of passengers after post-Haj operation, but that didn’t mean they were adopting measures that would consider as “to go by the book”.

“Going by the book” is commonly considered as a form of “go slow” protest and previous such actions by the pilots’ body over the years have caused millions of dollars losses to the airline.

The Palpa spokesperson said they considered “going by the book” as a “harsh measure” and hoped that the situation would not come to that. “We [the pilots] will not board a flight if all safety regulations are not strictly followed [after post-Haj operation].”

A PIA spokesperson was optimistic that the situation would not cause any suffering to the passengers. “We are taking Palpa’s reservations seriously and they [pilots] are in touch with the management.”

He said that Flight Operation Director Captain Uzair Khan was in contact with Palpa. “He has been taking several steps and around 30 pilots have been promoted and upgraded.” However, the spokesperson said PIA “never compromises on safety”. “Whatever the duty hours or flying hours [the pilots have] are very much within the prescribed limits of the ANO [Air Navigation Orders] issued by the CAA,” he said. “We don’t cross the limit.”

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2019