KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan has made history by saving public money worth over Rs100 million, as he took commercial flights for the US trip and scrapped practices of former premiers of engaging at least two long-haul jets.
Mostly Boing 777, long-range wide-body twin-engine 300-seater jet airliner, served private convoys of previous prime ministers. It roughly costs Rs4-4.5 million per hour. Pakistan to US flight takes more than 14 hours on one side, said an aviation industry source who closely witnessed past practices.
“If we calculate, it becomes Rs112-126 million for a 28-hour round trip,” said the source. This equation does not include other arrangements made by the national-flag carrier, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and other government institutions, he added.
Intend to renew, reinvigorate Pak-US ties, says PM Imran at Capitol Hill
“It used to be a nuisance; we had to adjust flights as engagement of one aircraft means disturbance of entire schedule,” the source said. “Seats had to be disassembled for the arrangements and reassembled when the plane returned. PIA had to provide food according to their choices. It took three to four days.”
The source said that the PIA staff had to change seating arrangements in the plane according to the demands, which means that the staff had to remove all the seats to set up a drawing room, lounge, sleeping area, press conference area etc.
Also, fuel and dollar rates have gone up recently. With the rupee depreciating by around 32% in 2019 and jet fuel cost increasing by 25%, according to statistic recording website Statista, the cost of air travel has also increased.
Furthermore, PIA was also required to keep a similar aircraft on standby, in case the first one developed some fault. “If one aircraft is to skip three flights during the visit, the total cost would multiply,” the source said.
Heads of state of every country make visits to other countries so it is natural to keep an aeroplane, which could serve them timely without hindering the schedule of an airline or costing that much high.
Pakistan has two US-made 12-seater Gulfstream jets for the visits of the prime minister and the president. Last month, a report said, the federal government approved a supplementary grant of Rs410 million for the repair and maintenance of these two aircraft.
Gulfstream jets are managed by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), and they are also fuel efficient so the cost is relatively less,” said the source, adding that the use of these jets also prevented any disruption in the PIA’s schedule.
Prime Minister Imran Khan took Gulfstream in his recent visits to the Middle Eastern countries but the previous prime ministers did not use this small plane; instead they took the Boing 777 even for visits to Saudi Arabia and other neighbouring countries.