ISLAMABAD: The government is struggling to come up with a viable business plan for the revival of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), as its management has so far proven to be a stumbling block, said Ahsan Iqbal, federal minister for planning, development and reform.
Even after holding two meetings, a special panel of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet is struggling to find a way forward due to the “non-serious approach of PIA’s top management”.
“Unprofessional approach, poor management practices, and lack of seriousness have led to the downfall of PIA,” said Iqbal.
He expressed these views while chairing the second meeting, held early this week, of the special committee formed by the ECC to bring structural reforms in PIA and make it a profitable organisation.
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The ECC had constituted the special panel last month while approving Rs10.5 billion as fresh guarantees for the sick airline. It raised the limit of borrowings from Rs151 billion to Rs161.5 billion.
The PIA was on the active list of privatisation but the government retreated after the employees actively exerted pressure.
During the second meeting, committee members asked the PIA chief executive officer what he would do differently to revive the airline, said one participant. However, the CEO did not have an answer.
The meeting was attended by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Revenue Haroon Akhtar, Finance Secretary Tariq Bajwa and Board of Investment Chairman Miftah Ismail, officials of Civil Aviation Authority, PIA CEO, Director HR(PIA) and other board members.
Iqbal maintained that it was a dire situation for PIA. “A poor country with over 200 million cannot afford a loss-making PIA.”
The federal minister expressed serious reservations over the non-serious attitude of PIA’s top officials. He further said if there’s no willpower shown by PIA, other options will be considered as a consequence.
He stressed that for a turnaround to take place each and every stakeholder has to be part of the mission. He said that employees and unions have to show their full commitment.
The PIA CEO, while recognising the difficult option of the airline, presented a short-term plan that focused on safety, product improvement, network expansion, fleet induction, closing the cash flow gap, restructuring the balance sheet and funds requirement. He further said that stability of the leadership was the most essential item to achieve all these goals.
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However, the panel was not impressed by the CEO’s presentation and sought firm information from him.
The short-term plan was reviewed by the committee, and the minister of planning said that he would like to see numbers and concrete data in order for the committee to make tangible suggestions.
From sales of tickets to promotion, pre-travel facilities to check-in lounges to cabin crew, inflight facilities to inflight meals and ground handling, everything needs a complete revival, said Iqbal.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2017.
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