FAISALABAD: A comprehensive strategy has been evolved for the revival of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) by turning it into a profit-earning enterprise, said Air Marshal Arshad Mahmood Malik, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PIA.
On his maiden visit to the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) on Monday, Malik revealed that a short-term plan would ensure smooth functioning of the air carrier while in the long run PIA would be revived on a sustainable basis in the next three to five years.
He called PIA’s revival a daunting challenge when compared with the establishment of a new airline. Malik, who is part of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), said he was utilising PAF’s support to turn around the national flag carrier’s fortunes.
He has visited Turkey to review how the Turkish Airlines was revived. Similarly, he has also studied Qatar’s model and has planned to visit Malaysia and other countries to analyse and discuss revival plans for their national carriers.
The CEO revealed that PIA was currently suffering a loss of Rs3 billion per month. “It has 32 aircraft, of which only six are generating revenue; nine planes, which are in working condition, have been abandoned for the last nine months due to unknown reasons,” he said.
He pointed out that 18,000 workers were at the payroll of PIA and though their number was in excess of the prescribed yardstick, they could be utilised by getting more airplanes for future operations. He said PIA had seven loss-making routes and his first priority was to get rid of such routes while in the next phase more remedial steps would be taken to revive the airline on a permanent basis.
“All unprofitable routes will be closed and air services on new profitable routes will begin very soon,” he declared.
PIA had 36 offices of labour unions, of which only 10 offices can be closed so far. “I have no link with any political party,” he remarked.
Malik announced that he would address a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday to share more statistics about the present situation of PIA. Responding to a question, he disclosed that three direct flights per week would be launched on the Faisalabad-Jeddah route from February 15.
He said two separate high-level teams would visit Faisalabad next week to review the expansion of existing runway and evaluate its cargo handling potential. He asked the FCCI to purchase a cargo plane for kicking off PIA’s cargo services from Faisalabad.
He was of the view that expansion of the runway was a lengthy task but for the time being the existing runway would be upgraded to address complaints of delay in the delivery of luggage to the Hajj pilgrims. He offered to arrange screening and other machinery for cargo handling if the FCCI arranged its own cargo plane.
As Hajj operations were expected to start in the next three to four months, Malik called it a very difficult time for PIA, which was going to get six additional planes to meet needs of the pilgrims. Regarding landing facility during dense fog, Malik said the system was available only at the Lahore airport, which was gifted by Qatar.
Responding to complaints of delay in clearance of dry cargo during the mango season, he assured businessmen that a policy would be framed to avoid embarrassment to the textile exporters. Replying to a query about the launch of direct flights from Faisalabad to China, the PIA CEO stressed that it was not possible with the present runway. He also announced that an incentive package could be offered to the regular customers of PIA.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2019.