‘Ground’ Realities

Published: January 27, 2016


PIA PHOTO: REUTERS The writer has been in top media and entertainment corporations in Bollywood for over a decade and can be found on twitter @tanuj_garg

As I read about the fracas created by PIA employees in light of the decision to privatise it, I was reminded of how Air India (AI) employees react every time a similar proposal is mooted. I have travelled on both the airlines, and not because I am Indian, I will say that AI is infinitely superior to PIA in just about every respect — fleet size, aircraft configuration, network, cabin interiors and catering. AI even has an active social media presence and customer engagement, a pre-requisite for international airlines these days. It is brilliant on a good day and terrible on a bad day but PIA is consistently miserable. I’ve had the misfortune of travelling on PIA a few times and find it hard to pin down on any one of the trips being the worst.

Last-ditch effort to prevent Feb 2 PIA strike

With the state-run airline’s employee unions blackmailing the management by halting training centres and booking offices and further threatening to disrupt flight operations, Pakistan and its economy are being held to ransom by a bunch of lazy rebels who have comfortably slipped into dream jobs that pay handsomely for doing sweet nothing. The inconvenienced passengers are the biggest losers, and of course, the airline itself whose gargantuan losses are compounding by the minute. Not only is the airline top-heavy and overstaffed but there is corruption pervading every level. Its leadership appears to be hugely indecisive and incompetent. The politics and bureaucracy plaguing PIA have swiftly slid it into a point of no return, leaving it for brutal abuse by those in power. To keep white elephants like PIA going is an unnecessary burden on the depleting national exchequer, something a financially challenged country like Pakistan cannot afford. While privatisation is not necessarily a guarantee of profitability, it certainly promises relatively enhanced financial and operational performance. It is time for bold, decisive action on the ownership of PIA. The government needs to ignore the bullies (even if that means temporarily hurting travellers) and work actively to hive off the airline to private hands.

PIA flight makes emergency landing in China following bomb hoax


1) Italy’s desire to court visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani extended to covering up classical nude sculptures in the museum where he met Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Why would Italy betray its cultural heritage in the name of political correctness? Above all, why did the two men do a press conference in a museum?

2) Educational institutions in Pakistan’s Punjab province have been informed overnight to take a five-day sabbatical in light of the severe winter. So is the cold wave expected to dispel on day six? Or does the government think that its people are so naive as to not guess the real reason behind the sudden closure? Terror attacks on educational institutions in Pakistan are alarming and the protests by the Sunni Tehreek in Lahore against the death penalty awarded to Mumtaz Qadri could have something to do with the paranoia. But to get schools and colleges to pull down their shutters is preposterous and immature — like a pigeon shutting its eyes on sighting a cat.

PML-N government paves way for PIA privatisation

3) Airlift, the Akshay Kumar-starrer about the evacuation of 170,000 Indians from Kuwait when Iraq invaded the city nation in August 1990, has garnered global applause for the right reasons. The 120-minute docu-drama left me feeling proud to be Indian. And I think I speak for millions of Indians if the film’s stupendous box office result is anything to go by.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th,  2016.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Allah Hafiz
    Jan 28, 2016 - 12:04AM

    Air India is one of the best Government airlines and infact i prefer to travel by air india if i get it at a low cost….Its earning profit and its a govt run entity….that is excellent…but air India got to learn a lot from domestic airlines such as Indigo,Spice Jet and Jet Airways and Go air and Air costa and etc..etc…

    Air India on Foreign front has a lot to learn from Lufthansa,btitish airways,singapore airlines etc..etc…

    we are not competing with PIA ….sorry for that….our lowest low cost domestic airlines has a fleet size of 38 equal to PIA while our highest domestic airlines Indigo has 3 times plane as PIA….and Air India fleet size…let us not just talk about whats the fleet size of just their standby aircraft…….Recommend

  • Malik Saab
    Jan 28, 2016 - 3:00AM

    I have traveled in both Air India and PIA as well PIA is far better as atleast it do not felt like that you are travelling in a masala laden truck all the time. The only route of PIA that i do not like Dubai-Pakistan ( Especially Peshawar route).
    Also It is my request to Indians to stop comparing everything with Pakistan. When some Pakistani comment on any Indian forum then they are bashed as it is considered an Internal matter of India. So why this hypocricy that an Indian guy is trying to dictate the policies on Pakistan, but we are not allowed to talk on any Issue of India?.
    Also for your kind information Punjab always give Winter holidays during this time. This is not something new. I have been watching it atleast for the last 20 years. Stop making it a fuss from across the border. People in Karachi know nothing about Punjab and then their ill informed Indian friends are also invited to come to roost on ill informed news. Recommend

  • Old Ravian
    Jan 28, 2016 - 9:29AM

    I fully agree with the author. The Government should not bow to the PIA employees’ black mailing. Because of the these people, PIA has gone to ruins. In its glory days, it was one of the best airlines in the world. Former PIA employs set up airlines in the Gulf, which are today’s success story. Recommend

  • vinsin
    Jan 28, 2016 - 9:36AM

    @Malik Saab:
    You should better ask that question to Tribune. Recommend

  • Freya Singh
    Jan 28, 2016 - 10:59AM

    What Baloney! Air India is terrible to say the least-yes, I’ve also traveled both and PIA is NOT consistently miserable. Once I had a weather related flight delay where the staff aptly kept informing us and treated us to a buffet meal to make the waiting period comfortable. It is Air India which always gives me a bad stomach and queasiness for days. I would request my fellow Indians to stop this Pak bashing just to feel superior. We need to work hard on air India to bring it up to par.Recommend

  • Shiv
    Jan 28, 2016 - 12:13PM

    @Malik Saab:
    I agree that this India Pakistan comparison should stop.
    As for PIA and AI, having not traveled by PIA as yet I cannot comment. However, AI has a lot to improve on at least on the domestic sectors. Recommend

  • sabi
    Jan 28, 2016 - 12:36PM

    I agree with the author and accept the facts.Also congratulation for Air India for performing better.Let us not make it an issue of rivalry.Recommend

  • Milind
    Jan 28, 2016 - 12:37PM

    I too had a low opinion about Indian Airlines.. However a couple of trips to and from Chicago to India, changed my opinion.. Not only were the staff courteous, the service was excellent, especially as we were travelling with a 6 month old.. We were provided front seats, bassinet, something which American Airlines promised but never did in my earlier trip… Additionally the American Airlines airhostesses were arrogant and appeared racist… More power to AI…Recommend

  • tatvavetta
    Jan 28, 2016 - 1:11PM

    I have not travelled by PIA. But Air India is one of the bad airlines world wide and no where near the top 10 which I wish it should be being our national carrier. It was good years back. IF PIA is in same league it should improve its services especially on important sectors from tourism point of view. Same goes for Air India. Keeping afloat is important at the same time.Recommend

  • DevilHunterX
    Jan 28, 2016 - 1:13PM

    As a Pakistani who have traveled by PIA since 80s, all I have to say is that it is the only Government run Airlines in the history of mankind which charges MORE than any private airlines.Recommend

  • Jan 28, 2016 - 2:16PM

    The American Airlines hostesses appeared racist?
    But so are YOU.Recommend

  • TN
    Jan 28, 2016 - 5:16PM

    Govt should IMMEDIATELY stop funding of billions of tax payers money into PIA.
    If the employees feel that they could turn around this looser then give them an opportunity BUT no credit/payments from the govt. or PSO etc. Recommend

  • Billu
    Jan 28, 2016 - 5:17PM

    PIA in 60s and 70s was in top ten best airlines in the world and started declining in 80s and now is worst. I have travelled recently on PIA’s Boeing 777. The seating was worst, There was no safety instruction card, The TV monitors were not working, The meal was average. However, The PIA pilots are best as compared to other world class airlines.

    The author very rightly pointed the main reasons behind PIA downfall. The privatization cannot make any difference without changing the current setup of the airline.Recommend

  • Khalid Saeed
    Jan 28, 2016 - 5:48PM

    I have had the experience of traveling with different airlines around the world. But whenever I travel to Pakistan, I prefer to use PIA, not because of its service, but of convenience. It takes me just 6 hours to land in Pakistan from Oslo, while any other airline will double the time. I do not expect too much from PIA for this short journey as most of time go to sleeping, but yet I must say that Business class service is pretty ordinary interns of food, comfort, service and entertainment comparing the price you pay.Recommend

  • ShaikhMustafa
    Jan 28, 2016 - 6:08PM

    Could you pls clarify your point regarding the handsome salaries that pia staff get.,? While I’m not opposing the privatisation move, it must be noted that despite being hugely over staffed it’s employee cost is 16.6 % of its revenues which again going by industry standards is among the lowest if not the lowest in the world.
    Even if the govt lays off all the employees that’s only lower the airline’s losses by 17 %. What about the remaining 83%. Recommend

  • Anil
    Jan 28, 2016 - 6:18PM

    I’ve had the misfortune of travelling internationally with both airlines – AI and PIA on occasion and have to say that the difference, if any, is marginal. Both airlines have old planes, bad service and high fares and I would travel with neither if given the choice. Maybe AI is slightly better but that’s like arguing which is better – Cancer or AIDS. I’ll take neither…thank you very much.

    Governments in both countries need to get out of the airline business. Maybe there was some historic logic in entering it but the need has long passed. People who always cite strategic needs – like the emergency airlift that happened in Kuwait seem to forget that this is the government. In the rare emergency, they can always requisition the private airlines compulsorily and give them some compensation. Who can stop the government after all. There’s no need to waste Billions of dollars year on year for such a mythical need.

    As far as getting airlines to fly to unprofitable domestic destinations is concerned, a subsidy would serve the need a lot better and be cheaper.Recommend

  • Sun Tzu
    Jan 30, 2016 - 12:56AM

    I fail to understand the author’s logic of comparing AI and PIA?

    AI needs to get it’s game in order. Be on time. Improve food. Improve politeness and behavior towards passengers. It is ages behind Singapore AIr which I often use. Recommend

  • Komal S
    Jan 30, 2016 - 4:15PM

    @Allah Hafiz:
    Sorry i do not want Air India to learn anything from Lufthansa or British Airways. Never been impressed with them. I agree Singapore, Emirates , Cathay Pacific, Etihad may be worth emulating. Recommend

  • Komal S
    Jan 30, 2016 - 4:19PM

    @Malik Saab:
    Very touchy eh. Good you like PIA better than Air India. Most of us in India are not big fan of Air India either. They are trying to improve and bring in professionalism but still some ways to go. Recommend

  • Gujji
    Jan 30, 2016 - 7:04PM

    Lol every time we post the truth which is this author is creating his own user comments to make his article seem more appealing, we do not get posted but more of his comments do. It’s easy to see, just go on his twitter page and look at the similarities in verbiage between these posts and his tweets. Recommend

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