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Pakistan’s aviation industry failing to fly

Published Dec 04, 2012 05:05pm


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Another notorious entity landed into court this week, probably because of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry himself. According to a report, “Already in the headlines for all wrong reasons, PIA again came under the flak on Monday when counsel Khalid Anwar requested the court to take a suo motu notice of the pathetic state of affairs in the airline. The request was made against the backdrop of Sunday’s incident when an Islamabad-bound PIA aircraft developed fault in one of its engines and was stuck at the Karachi airport for hours. The chief justice and some federal ministers were among the passengers.”

The report says, “The Pakistan International Airlines bemoaned in the Supreme Court on Monday that the unilateral grant of liberal traffic rights to foreign airlines was one of the reasons for the national flag carrier’s decline. It said Pakistan had become a lifeline for foreign carriers, mainly from the Gulf region, which were sucking away the resources of Pakistan (Pakistani passengers). The report regretted that foreign airlines had been increasing their capacity on Pakistan routes because of the facility of liberal traffic rights. Successive governments have allowed foreign airlines to fly to and out of the country without offering any reciprocal rights to PIA to fly to their countries.” Is PIA justified in blaming its substandard performance on foreign competition which it can’t seem to come to terms with? What about the unrelenting decline of customer services, which is a major part of the business that is being questioned by the court?

Another recent analysis states, “Pakistan recently allowed five international airlines to begin direct passenger and cargo flights from Sialkot International Airport. Qatar Airways, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia, Etihad Airways and Emirates would start their operations from Sialkot soon. The number of international flights to various foreign destinations from the industrial city will reportedly rise to 45 from the existing 21 in a month.

The business community was thrilled. “The transport costs and the ability to respond to demand swiftly in a fast changing, competitive international market makes or breaks a business. Better connectivity will save local businesses time and money. Siakot will return favour by investing in modernisation of the airport and jacking up efforts to outperform their competitors in the international trade”, Mohammad Azam, a businessman from Sialkot commented.

“Sialkot is a big commercial centre with a motivated business community. The decision is a step in the right direction”, Zubair Motiwala, a known business leader said when reached over telephone.

The ministry that authenticated the government’s decision, however, did not share the euphoria. The ministry of defence, responsible for the aviation industry, detested the move that, it said, was forced on it. It believed the decision compromised national interests.

“People will still be happier if you allow them to travel free but would you do that?” a senior officer in the ministry asked when contacted in Islamabad for comments. “The sound economic decisions are not necessarily popular”, he answered without waiting for a reply. Why is the ministry not inclined to favour ‘sound economic decisions’? Why is fair and productive competition being regarded as detrimental? Could the fact that a self-absorbed ministry (that has too much on its plate in the first place) been given control of the aviation industry is proving out to be a disastrous decision?

With only three Pakistani airlines in the market, that seem are ever ready to be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, what possible options are left for improvements in Pakistan’s aviation industry?


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Comments (59) Closed

FL Dec 04, 2012 06:57pm
Residing in Chicago with family in Pakistan, I tried my level best to take PIA instead of other airlines. Here are some things that PIA offered that no airline can match: 1) It made a stop in UK where ALL passengers (regardless if you have children / infants) had to vacate the aircraft, go thru security in Manchester as you were leaving the aircraft, turn around immediately and re-go thru security and re-board the aircraft. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to go outside the secured area; so, all this is for no good reason that I know of or was told. 2) It then makes a stop in Qatar or or some middle-east country where it tries to load the plane like a bus driver in Karachi. Quality of service declines as more "Pakistanis" board the aircraft and the attitude of flight attendants is such that they are doing you a favor by taking your money and not providing you the service. My personal favorite was when a flight attendant told me "take the soft drink now, otherwise, don't complain to me that it's finished"... and she was right on with that statement 3) If things were bad enough, if you buy a ticket and have already paid thru a travel agent, but don't go to the local office to pick the ticket right away, they will cancel your ticket... yep, it really happened. I couldn't go due to work commitments, but was under the impression that my ticket should be ok since I have already paid. Of course not... I had to go thru tons of hassles to make other arrangements as my vacation had already been approved. With these things in mind, I should ALWAYS take PIA... NOT.
Sam Dec 05, 2012 07:34am
FREE yearly tickets to employees, free luxuries,free lifetime medical facilities, free travel,free schooling, free cars PIA is not working for their customers but PIA is helping employees to flourish and do free world tours.
Jonathan Wilde Dec 05, 2012 04:03am
PIA management should read the two books:- 1) Good to Great 2) Build to Last both by Tim took the corporate world fifty years of twentieth century to understand the basic fact that "success lay in competetion"...and PIA is simply trying to avoid the basics. good luck then
Saad Dec 05, 2012 03:06pm
yes but at that time the top airline was Pan Am which doesn't exist any more.............
Iqbal Khan Dec 05, 2012 03:13am
Believe it or not once upon a time PIA was among the first top 10 airlines of the world.
Ali Dec 05, 2012 02:16pm
I have purchased the first ever PIA international flight ticket in more than 10 yrs while living in the UK and coming back to Pakistan almost every yr. PIA is the most expensive of all airliners and seriously I am very worried about their aircraft condition and safety standards as so many near misses have happened. PIA has no way way but to downsize enormously, get rid of all the free perks its heavily politicised employees enjoy and better stand up to the competition not running away from it. It will definitely need investment but no one will invest unless its house is in order and it make sense economically. PIA and WAPDA are the two white elephants of Pakistan. Although we can't live without WAPDA no will miss PIA if it never existed.
muzammil ullah khan Dec 04, 2012 07:47pm
PIA can NEVER NEVER improve . Just disban it . The staff , particularly the maintenance staff is " SIFARSHI" and cannot maintain the air crafts . The sales people are thoroughly corrupt . It is the worst "sarkari Mehekma" with rampant corruption and is an epitome of inefficiency . Lets also not forget that one Karachi - Lahore flight was delayed by one hour on purpose because our beloved Interior Minister was to travel by the same flight and no one dared to leave him behind . This is no Air Line . It is a third rate bus service . I stopped flying PIA a long time ago.
Nasir Dec 04, 2012 11:07pm
Privatize it. I am sure all those free loaders will happily board a foreign airline if they have to pay!
aleem Dec 05, 2012 01:54pm
i have been flying since the age of 4 incompetence of Pia is so amusing that it is laughable last time i flew Pia was 1984 it was really bad than i can not imagine now 28 years later its probably the worst in the world higher prices extremely poor customer service and staff looking to profit from passengers flying plane half empty and telling every one that its full that is just some of the few horror stories oh yeah no manners lol
Hansrod Dec 04, 2012 05:16pm
I cannot believe that PIA is moaning about other airlines flying in and out of various airports in Pakistan. Why can't they improve themselves to be competitive .....people have a right to choose...shame on PIA.
shadeslayer Dec 04, 2012 05:49pm
Typical "sarkari" mindset. Instead of focusing on quality, PIA is moaning about competition. I say privatize PIA, ASAP! They have one of the highest passenger to employee ratio in the world. Their losses are running in billions. Long gone are the glory days of PIA. Today it just serves to fill some sarkari pockets.
Jalaluddin S. Hussain Dec 04, 2012 11:55pm
As a former employee of PIA at the time of Air Marshal Asghar Khan, Air Marshall Noor Khan and Mr. S.U. Durrani, I am overjoyed at the news that PIA has to face foreign airlines' competition now. They better be ready for this. There is no way out!
Farooq Ali Dec 05, 2012 06:03am
It is a war of quality of service where customer the one who pays a full price ticket is the boss not the free complimentary passenger , which in case of PIA are many. While travelling on Etihad or Emiratus you will never find a person pushing the que and shouting at the hostess that do you know that I belong to the ruling elite and the rules are not for me. It therefore is important that PIA is given service quality overhaul focusing on revenue passengers only.
Ali Dec 05, 2012 04:29am
Agreed PIA can never improve because all Sifarshi in all departments. PIA in worst condition
Amir Dec 05, 2012 02:16am
This is exactly what Zardari wants to bring his sister's airline business as the only flag carrier into national aviation.
Junaid Dec 05, 2012 05:58am
Would love to fly PIA even if other airlines are around, if and only if PIA improves reliability by flying on time, service in flight and ticketing, and safety. Right now its terrible. Would rather pay $50-100 more and take a foreign airline compared to PIA.
omer khan shaheen Dec 05, 2012 08:51am
"I would change everyone from top to bottom once and for all" and bring in fresh, honest, skilled, qualified "few"on the team. By a hiring them through a tough process that is not inclined towards any race, gender, ethnicity, religion or most importantly "political party!!!" or we are on a nose dive. No more 3 - 5 years leaves and free rides!!!
Muhammad Jamil Dec 06, 2012 06:30am
In 60s PIA used to be the darling of travelling persons. It is no more. I have during last several years not found a single soul claiming he is using PIA for international flight.People prefer to fly with Emirates, Qatar, Etihad and Turkish airlines. It is too politicized.Hardly there is any motivation left to work for the glory of the Airline and the country. It is time to sell this airline even for zero because we will be saved by perpetual losses of billions every year.
PK1414918 Dec 04, 2012 08:22pm
I flew PIA directly from Toronto and Karachi and it was far better than any of these oil-financed middle eastern flash-in-the-an airlines which PIA helped set up. But at the same time I'm not blind to the reality that Gulf Airliners are also excellent in service and have a modernized fleet of planes. It's not just them giving PIA competition, it's also these ridiculous embargoes America has put on PIA flights plus their technical delays combined with soft restrictions on passengers who are not medically fit to fly. Many times PIA has had to make unscheduled stop overs because of these lousy passengers. PIA needs newer generation 737s and a cut in certain destinations which are not profitable and reserve them for seasonal flights only. PIA should also allow domestic passengers on flights in between cities when arriving from abroad. When I arrived from Toronto. When I arrived from Toronto at Islamabad more than half the passenger space was empty. No one flying from Islamabad to Karachi was allowed. Such silly rules need to be slashed in order for more profits to be generated.
Pakistani Dec 05, 2012 07:52am
Privatisation is not the only solution. We have to remove political party influence in this organisation. But to this 90% of the jobs are filled by non- deserving incompetent people. PIA has a massive Payrol which is not inline with the industry standard. PIA has more 800 people per flying aircraft while standard is under 100. No one will buy this massive burden. Further, no one can be fired because of the political parties. I always avoid flying PIA due to its poor maintenance ageing fleet. PIA reflects our dear country, in every spirit, May Allah save Pakistan !!!
Saad Dec 05, 2012 12:18pm
For the first time in history PIA will face competition from not only foreign airlines but also from Shaheen and AirBlue, which have recently acquired long-haul aircraft and will probably start direct flights to Europe and other destinations so PIA will lose the last advantage that held throughout.
MOHAMMAD Dec 04, 2012 11:00pm
better ptivatise it.
Owais Dec 05, 2012 12:35pm
not downsizing for lower staff but cleaning operation for management
Sahir Dec 05, 2012 12:06pm
PIA with its fleet size of 38 aircrafts, out of which 10 are ground - has employed 20,000 staff. Contrary to this Qatar Airways with its fleet size 118 craft is operating with 14,000 staff. Downsizing along with privatization would be the only workable solution.
Saad Farooq Dec 05, 2012 01:56pm
Agreed - PIA has one of the highest employees:aircraft ratio in the world which nobody wants to do anything about. Without right-sizing and enhancing operational productivity PIA won't be able to attain financial efficiencies ever. Next step would be to focus on customer experience management.
Wasim Dec 05, 2012 02:07pm
For every plane they have a 1000 employees. Wow!!!
guest Dec 05, 2012 04:00pm
The problem is NOT just PIA. It's somewhere else. Unless we have these corrupt politicians (sardars, waderas, business tycoons etc) running, winning and coming back by rigging elections, manipulating system and giving us the illusion of democracy, all institution will break down. Does not matter if you privatize it or keep under state owned, in both cases, its not going to get better. Just like all other institutions, WAPDA, railways etc. Just look at private rental plants, private trains, all run by the same politicians privately, destroyed everything. We have to clean up the system. CJ should allow implementation of if his orders and ask Army to clean up. Implement Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution by Pak Army and ban all corrupt, goons and already tested players. Disqualify them based upon their previous corruption. This is the only way out. Otherwise keep dreaming of fixing this system of demon-cracy. Currently its not the govt. of the people, by the people or for the people. Its the govt of the fat corrupt, by the same people and for the same people.
Rabaik Dec 05, 2012 04:55pm
Are you employee in PIA???
rabailyaseen Dec 05, 2012 04:58pm
Great Said.... :)
raghu Dec 05, 2012 05:26pm
kingfisher was a private airline with excellent service and many things more .............still it was not a viable business entity what makes a firm a thriving business entity ? is it the necessity..... the mother of invention or is it fatherly competition or can it be the Darwinian adaptability ?
Sahir Dec 05, 2012 06:30pm
'Let bygones be bygones'
Abbas Dec 07, 2012 07:19am
A case in example is Emirates. Despite allowing tens of foreign airlines to operate in the Emirates and having other local airlines ie Etihad, Flydubai etc compete with Emirates it continues to do wonders !!
ak Dec 05, 2012 10:22pm
Where did you get that information from? Top 10. In your dream-Perhaps.
Ahmed Dec 05, 2012 11:03pm
Hello, I am a PIA Pilot (First Officer). If you notice, our tickets are definitely not cheap (whether domestic or International). You'll also notice that our flights are always booked full. So what's going on? PIA makes record profits but on paper it shows "loss". The money is going up to the big guys in the Organization and the Government stake holders that influences it. The situation won't change unless or until a new Government shows up and cleans "PIA".
John Dec 06, 2012 01:22am
PIA has been systematically attenuated so that it could be privatized and the first sister
Seriously! Dec 06, 2012 05:41am
5 Steps needed: (1) Stop Government or Political Influence/Interference! (2) Let is run as a Commercial Airline and within a Commercially focussed Industry! (3) Let the highly talented professionals be recruited back into PIA, who have all fled to Middle East and beyond and doing a wonderfull job making foreign airlines successfull! (4) Give them 2-3 Years to Maximise Efficiencies with existing Infrastructure! (5) In 5 years, they should pursue the global market better with new routes and extending services! Basically, it is not a rocket science....but for 4 & 5 to happen, the first three steps are a must!
Majaz Amin Dec 06, 2012 07:19am
"take the soft drink now, otherwise, don't complain to me that it's finished" BRILLIANT!!!!!!!
Majaz Amin Dec 06, 2012 07:21am
The only way to 'remove political party influence' is to privatize the airlines!!!
Zaheer UD din Dec 07, 2012 06:59am
Avation industry is life line of the nation & econmic engine of state. PIA has a good name in avaition history. what happend to PIA?. Mismanagment is on the top, Political Influence, lack of proffessionalism, corruption are main cuase of decline of PIA in avaition industry. Besite of tall claim & rehtoric each governament fail to re-organize pakistan international air line.
Taquee Dec 06, 2012 08:11am
Try visiting PIA offices, you will feel you are at PPP political office.
haris Dec 06, 2012 12:52pm
@ Sam: Free Yearly tickets, free lifetime medical from PIA are part of rules set by IATA and PIA is a member IATA union. All the Airlines of the World are facilitating their employees. Some even go far, offerings Free travel tickets to Friend's of Employees. Do you know that employees of WAPDA and KESC are facilitated with Free Electricity at their home. Similarly, these kinds of facilities are also granted to employees who works for Petroleum industries (i.e. Monthly-Free Petrol) like PSO, Attock Oil etc. Also employees of PTCL doesn't have to pay their Telephone bills. On another note, the Staff tickets are given on 'subject-to-load' basis, that is, if there are seats available in a flight then only a staff-passenger can travel. And there is no such 'Free Schooling' so better get your facts straight.
Arif Dec 06, 2012 01:17pm
I agree with you ! PIA must reduce the Aircraft : Employee ratio . In one of the best airlines this ratio is 1:300 or less .. But who will bell the cat !!!!!!!!
haris Dec 06, 2012 01:29pm
@ak: FYI! Among many accolades (mostly during 1963-1980) PIA has received here are few of them; First airline in the world to offer helicopter services. First airline to show in-flight entertainment on international routes. First airline to fly over the Karakoram and Himalays mountains. It is an alternative route to China which is much shorter than the other. First airline to have Cabin-Crew composed entirely with Female staff. This happened only for Domestic Flights though. First Airline in South-Asia to introduce the concept of auto-ticketing facilities.
Trailblazer Dec 06, 2012 02:33pm
Sir, which new Govt. you are talking about. Didn't we see that same politicians or their children show up all the time in each govt. regardless its so called democracy or dictatorship? We need a system clean up. The cancer has spread too much and we need surgery. We have surgical provisions in the constitution. If we just implement Article 62/63, all these perpetual corrupt politicians will be out. So basically we are in this mess because we in violation of the Constitution by not implementing it fully. Then these politicians cry why dictators come and destroy their musical chair game.
Khanm Dec 10, 2012 11:49am
60 years of past history reveals every thing. It the past that makes the future. Couple of years will not bring any change to beleaguered air line.
Khanm Dec 12, 2012 01:13pm
My dear you have not seen any thing yet. Call a spade a spade. The irony of this nation is, we don
Khanm Dec 10, 2012 11:41am
hummmm !!!!! Once upon a time we ruled half of the world but now. Let us not be nostalgic. Wake up and smell the coffee.
Nadeem Khan Dec 07, 2012 09:41am
First, this is wrong caption that Pakistan Aviation Industry failing to fly.... we have potential, we have passengers but not the aircrafts. every single person needs to see himself in PIA (whichever duty is he performing), from porter to pilot and from PA, Middle Management, Management and Top Management - is every single person is performing 70% of his day performing his duty religiously. Its not just government, its not just top management, its every one. - Lets accept our population increased since by double since 1970s and the aircraft, which we had at time are more than what we have now and employees are much more than even double. - Lets accept that Pilots are just drivers of an aircraft with qualification of HSC and a certification of flying only, they can not read financial statement of a commercial organizations. - There is difference between an administrator and a person with commercial sense. Top Management of PIA is comprises of only administrators - not experts. Middle Management is sleeping because they have holidays to enjoy due to exciting HR policies. - Lets accept at any given period, PIA 60% staff is sitting idol, doing nothing - out side of their offices being on holidays.... I can just wish being the part of this organization... nothing more.
Zishi Dec 07, 2012 10:33am
Main issue of PIA is political staffing. Senior management are all political appointees and therefore there is no risk to their jobs if PIA doesn't perform. Their main concern is to serve the political party they belong to and not the airline. They hire people and because the previous staff cannot be fired so easily, they have an idol workforce which have nothing to do but take salaries. This is a gift from our corrupt and incompetent politicians to the nation.
Iqbal khan Dec 07, 2012 01:00pm
Pakistan International Airlines (Urdu: ??????? ????????? ???? ??????; generally known as PIA; or Pakistan International), is the national flag carrier and a state-owned enterprise of Government of Pakistan.[2] Once regarded as Asia's best airline,[3] it is headquartered at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi [4] and operates scheduled services to 24 domestic destinations and 38 international destinations in 27 countries across Asia, Europe and North America.[5] Its main bases are at Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad/Rawalpindi. Above is from Wikipedia
uk muslim Dec 07, 2012 03:36pm
political staffing ?.... no, they are all retired army wallas
Musa Ahmed Bajwa Dec 06, 2012 09:06pm
Well, first off, i must say that although PIA is in shambles, and the main reason that i find is overstaffing which in turn is directly related to , political staffing, which is a nation wide problem. I also must disagree with some people that, PIA does not have good customer service. and Emirates or Eitihad has better, i am sorry but Emirate does not have good cabin crew customer service, they treat you as if they are doing a favor on you. For Me PIA has been always the best choice, for going to Pakistan, they try their utmost possible to facilitate all of their passengers no matter who is it. so PIA is a very good airline in regards of cabin crew and customer service. but and this is a big but, if PIA is not pulled out of the political mingling it will drown, whilst now it is swimming with a half deflated life jacket.
Khanm Dec 10, 2012 11:56am
Very well said. It is the same wine but in a different bottle.. We need a drastic change. It is time we need to think as a nation or else we will be wiped out from the face of this world.
M K Sufi Dec 13, 2012 08:25am
An airline should be run and managed by professionals. Lot of airlines of today, did not exist, when PIA was flying, the routes world over. PIA has been mother to some of the airline of to-day. More airlines are coming in. Merit should be for employment even if its on political recommendation.,
Sam Dec 07, 2012 02:33am
IATA membership doesn't make its 1024K airlines (worldwide) members mandatory to give free yearly world tickets to their employees?Employee benefits completely depend upon employer,their financial capacity and nobody (IATA etc.) can force any employer to give generous luxurious benefits.
Sam Dec 07, 2012 02:38am
IATA cannot force its over one Million airline members across globe to give free medical and free yearly tickets to employees.PIA is not only IATA member,IATA have over one Million airlines (worldwide) as its members.Airline as employers have their complete power to increase or decrease employee benefits (depending upon their financial situation).
TrailBlazer Dec 07, 2012 02:52am
Wonderful points but unless point 1 is implemented, the rest of the four are un-imaginable and it cannot be implemented if same corrupt politicians remain in the power one way or the other.
Born again Indian Dec 07, 2012 03:03am
@FL Dear FL, No comments on anything but your point 1). That procedure has nothing to do with PIA. It is the screwed up design of airport. If don't like that, pls avoid Heathrow as well. Just FYI..
Adnan Dec 07, 2012 04:01am
PIA trying its best to come out from crises ... and hope Insha Allah very soon under new management.