Planes and plans

Published March 26, 2024

FOR the past many years, PIA has been getting little by way of good press, mostly on account of internal mismanagement and a poor in-flight experience. Saddled with debt and raking in losses worth billions every year, the flag carrier’s privatisation is imminent, with the prime minister calling for a timeline for PIA’s privatisation. Yet as the airline is prepared for privatisation, there may be some good news on the horizon. The foreign minister, while on a recent trip to the UK, said that PIA flights to Britain would resume “in weeks, not months”. The aviation minister similarly said in a press release last week that the flag carrier could return to British skies after European regulators gave the all-clear by May. He added that the ability to fly to Europe would make PIA more attractive to private investors. PIA was banned from flying to Europe after the crash of PK-8303 in 2020. The comments by the then aviation minister claiming that a number of PIA pilots had dubious flying credentials did not help the airline’s reputation as a safe carrier.

Once great people to fly with, PIA’s list of woes is a long one, and has been well-documented. Therefore, privatisation may be the only antidote as several attempts to restructure the airline have failed. From this perspective, a leaner, more professionally run carrier in private hands could provide better flying options to Pakistanis travelling to Europe, North America and elsewhere. If the UK and EU bans are lifted, Pakistani passengers can fly direct, instead of transiting through Gulf hubs, thus saving themselves time and the hassle of changing planes. Along with stemming the airline’s losses, privatisation must focus on safety, timely departures and arrivals, and a comfortable in-flight experience. Perhaps if placed in professional hands, the carrier can regain its lost glory, become a profitable concern, and offer Pakistani travellers attractive flying options.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2024

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