National carrier

An international embarrassment

Pakistan International Airlines, our flagship national carrier, has been an unprofitable financial glutton and burden on the exchequer for decades. Finding value in a PIA ticket, domestic or international, is extremely difficult with its dated fleet and insufficient on-board features that in most cases have not even included an entertainment system for passengers for the past several years. Making it a commercially viable airline in an already volatile and unpredictable industry such as aviation with stiff local and international competition providing a better product, is therefore a difficult task. Add to this the fact that PIA’s administrative and managerial problems are like any other government-run institution, and that task becomes near impossible. An abysmal safety record, with three major crashes since 2000 claiming close to 200 lives, discourages passengers from using the service when other airlines with better track records are available. The most recent crash in 2020, following which the aviation Minister at the time, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, revealed that close to 262 of the 860 active licenses issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) were suspicious, led to PIA being banned by the EU and UK until an audit was passed, which is scheduled to take place later this month. Unable to land at Heathrow owing to the ban, PIA has been forced to sublet its 7 spots to other international airlines for six months to avoid irreversible cancellation.

What is more, rather than focusing on improving the condition of the airline, PIA is busy issuing a ridiculous, bizarre and unnecessary directives to its female crew, sending out an official circular ordering to ‘wear undergarments’. Although PIA has since withdrawn the memo, one wonders why the airline’s initial response was not to take any action against the complainant who was evidently spending most of his/her time on duty carefully observing and keeping tabs on the more ‘delicate’ dressing of his/her female subordinates and colleague.

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Several plans have been floated to bring the national carrier under some form of private management. There is the extreme ‘complete privatization’ option that the employees’ unions have successfully defeated multiple times. Another proposal is to split the airline up into two companies, PIA-A and PIA-B. Granted, privatization at any level will always be a contentious issue but some way forward must be found in order to avoid further international embarrassment and use of taxpayer money to finance an unprofessionally run substandard national carrier.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]


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