KARACHI: In what would be a blow for passengers looking to travel to the country’s northern areas, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has decided to shut down its planned commercial launch of the Air Safari flight, days after reportedly announcing the service.
The inaugural flight of Air Safari flew from Islamabad to Skardu a few days ago, reportedly carrying PIA officers, their relatives and friends, according to sources.
Around 70 free-of-cost tickets were issued for the flight with only taxes being applicable on passengers. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Director General Hassan Baig was also among the passengers.
The Air Safari, which was being launched after two decades, was meant to cater to rising tourism in the country as Pakistan tackled terrorism and improved the security situation in the country.
However, much like its premier service that was launched to cater to passengers flying to London, this experiment has failed as well.
CAA boss tells airlines to avoid flight delays
PIA spokesperson Mashhood Tajwar said the launch has been suspended for an indefinite time period due to operational difficulties.
The national carrier, under a huge debt burden and losses to the tune of billions, invested millions of rupees on the design and interior of the aircraft.
Recently, a video of an altercation between passengers and CAA also surfaced on social media, highlighting management issues with the Air Safari.
Similarly, the service also had a Boeing 737 aircraft designated for its service. It was not used on other routes.
Sources said during the planning of Air Safari, a feasibility study must have been prepared, and a huge sum of money on flight operations and advertising the service was spent.
PIA commences Hajj operations
It is worth mentioning that PIA is already completing its pre- and post-Hajj operations with limited staff.
Sources say inexperience, mismanagement and hastiness appear to be the reasons for the Air Safari failure.
Moreover, the top court has also expressed its displeasure at PIA’s fares on the Islamabad to Skardu flight. Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar remarked that private airlines should also be permitted to operate in the norther areas. During the hearing, the Supreme Court issued notices to PIA, the CAA and others.
He remarked that costly fares were affecting tourism, due to which people are reluctant to take these trips.