Air traffic controllers, who have been waiting for a relief package for two decades, have adopted a ‘go by the book’ policy to attract attention of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) management to their cause, industry people say.
Continuing for the seventh consecutive day on Wednesday, the move has led to delay in thousands of domestic and international flights. Airlines of Far Eastern and Middle Eastern countries, which use Pakistan’s airspace, are also feeling the heat as airspace controllers are reluctant to allow short cuts, which increases time slots in the airspace.
Under the policy, the air traffic controllers accommodate airlines on ‘first come first served’ basis. They deny short cuts to any airline, which forces the airline to spend more time in the airspace, meaning more fuel consumption worth millions of rupees as well as aircraft depreciation, often avoided by the airlines to save revenues.
Normally, many airlines are offered short cuts by the controllers in case of low air traffic.
“We took this step after continuous negligence on the part of CAA administration and delay in increasing the monthly allowance,” said an air traffic control officer seeking anonymity.
About a month ago, the CAA administration struck a deal with air traffic controllers, agreeing to implement a relief package and increase the allowance. “However, 40 days have passed, but the CAA has failed to even discuss the issue,” he said. “We are getting the same allowance of Rs500 per month in 2012 which we got in 1989.”
He said the tense working atmosphere could cause a serious safety hazard. “Our job is tough as the pilot fully depends on traffic controllers during a flight.”
Pakistani airspace is one of the busiest as according to CAA statistics around 900 flights from the Far East and Middle East use the country’s airspace daily.
Talking to The Express Tribune, CAA Director General Air Marshal (R) Khalid Chaudhry said the case had been going on for a decade and demands of air traffic controllers could not be met overnight.
“We have to adopt a formal procedure, we will present the case to the board of directors before the upcoming budget. If the board approves the increase in allowance, then we will allocate funds in the budget,” he said.
Chaudhry admitted that allowances of air traffic controllers were low, but said the protest was not the right way to get their demands accepted.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2012.