Despite huge growth potential in the aviation industry, security problems and shrinking profit margins discourage foreign players from investing or expanding operations in the country, says Cathay Pacific’s Country Manager for Pakistan Feroze Jamall, in an interview with The Express Tribune.
Cathy Pacific – a Hong Kong based private airline – has been operating in Pakistan for 11 years now. The airline operates from Karachi and is keen to expand operations to Lahore and Islamabad, among other destinations in the country; but there are problems that first need to be redressed.
According to Jamall, the government must rationalise the high rates of taxes on the aviation industry in order for it to flourish. To the contrary, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) increased different airport taxes in January this year, which irked both national and international airlines operating in Pakistan:
“Although airlines eventually pass on such a price increase to customers, it definitely hits profit margins as well.” says Jamall, “If cost of operations continue to increase like this, a time will come when the domestic market will become less attractive to foreign airlines.”
There are also some issues with bureaucratic procedures. Cathy Pacific flies to 30 cities of China. Though a lot of Pakistanis travel to the country, the carrier has not been able to cater to many Pakistani passengers. This is not due to its own limitations, but because a lot of Pakistani travellers fail to obtain a transit visa for Hong Kong; a legal requirement for anyone stopping over in the city-state en route to China, Malaysia or the Far East. More Pakistani travellers can visit the Asia Pacific region if the government resolves these visa issues, Jamall says.
Otherwise, “Cathy Pacific has been growing reasonably well and growth in revenues remains five to seven per cent. But I maintain that this rate does not fully represent the actual potential of this market.”
Replying to a question, he said that Cathy Pacific did not really benefit from the departure of its rival – Malaysian Airlines – from Pakistan.
Although heavily travelled by Pakistani passengers, Malaysian Airlines pulled out from Pakistan in January this year, citing a route rationalisation exercise to stem anticipated losses in 2012. The airline was gradually cutting operations on seven loss-making routes, including Dubai-Karachi-Kuala Lumpur – a significant route for Pakistani travellers to the Far East. Although the pullout was purely a business matter, some thought the airline was rolling back operations owing to security reasons.
Hiring Pakistani pilots
Cathy Pacific has ordered new airplanes, Jamall says, and it needs new pilots. “We have some Pakistani pilots in our crew, but we are here to hire more,” he says.
The airline aims to hire 300 pilots from different countries in 2012 alone.
David Alan Whitehead Hodges, deputy flying training manager for Cathay Pacific, is in Pakistan these days to supervise recruitment.
Successful candidates from different countries will first go for further interviews and assessments in Hong Kong, Jamall explains. Candidates who pass initial screening will then go to Australia for flight grading assessments.
Cathy Pacific currently employs nationals of 44 countries, and plans to diversify its workforce further as the airline expanding, he adds.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2012.