The trouble with: Flying PIA

Published: January 26, 2012

Facts, figures and opinion below are based on past articles run in The Express Tribune:

• Pakistan International Airlines is suffering a loss of Rs70.7 million per day.

• PIA has already lost Rs110 billion over the past three years.

• Despite the crippling losses, PIA employees (retired and serving) enjoy free travel in Pakistan and abroad.

• Cancellation of around 1,200 PIA flights between Aug-Nov 2011 inflicted Rs410 million loss to the airline.

• PIA’s downhill trend is aided by its powerful unions which force key deals to fall through, shut down airports.

• Over the past three years 2,171 people have been recruited in PIA, which has suffered losses worth Rs100 billion in the same time period.

• PIA recruited 237 people in 2011, 1,179 in 2010, while 684 appointments were made in 2009 and 56 in 2008.

• Thousands of PIA employees sacked by Nawaz Sharif’s government were reinstated by the PPP in 2008.

• The number of people hired by the PPP government is the highest in the history of the national flag carrier.

• The total number of airlines authorised to operate on commercial basis is six, including PIA, Air Blue, Shaheen Air, Indus Air, Bhoja Air and Pearl Air.

• This local competition enhances losses of the national flag carrier.

• In 2011, Iran shut its airspace to Pakistani aircraft due to a six-month $600,000 backlog in transit payments.

• PIA’s aging fleets of aircraft have faced increasing technical issues, forcing many planes to be grounded in 2011.

• On September 28 2011, 10 PIA aircraft, out of a fleet of 39, were grounded allegedly due to technical faults.

• On September 27 2011, flight PK-369 made an emergency landing at Multan Airport due to a malfunctioning generator.

• 24 hours later, UAE-bound flight PK-255 had to land in Karachi due to the same issue.

• On August 6, 2011, PK-745 had to make an emergency landing in Karachi after its landing gear failed to retract.

• On September 2 2011, PK-501 carrying 21 passengers and PK-508 with 32 passengers had to make ‘technical landings’ after engine failures.

• On December 12 2011, 11-19 of PIA’s 39 aircraft were believed to have been grounded for technical reasons.

• A potential reason for technical deficiencies in aircraft is the plummeting standards of engineering in the airline.

• Seven out of 26 local airports were closed down due to suspension of PIA flights on account of insufficient traffic load.

• Despite all this, PIA fights on the domestic sector fly with full loads due to lack of viable alternatives.

• The national carrier continues to cost Pakistan billions of rupees.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Afaaq
    Jan 26, 2012 - 6:36PM

    Yet the PPP hired thousands of laid off workers, who were appointed due to political affiliations to begin with. On top of that they were paid backdated pay!!! Only in a country like Pakistan people are allowed to abuse the country like this in the name of Democracy. The PIA employs around 450 people per Airplane. Airlines like KLM and Emirates employ about 230 people per airplane. Plus they do their own logistics. PIA leases that out too. Democracy (Kleptocracy) is the best !!!


  • Mard-e-Haq
    Jan 26, 2012 - 6:40PM

    Sad. It was such a reliable airlines once.


  • Zafar
    Jan 26, 2012 - 7:04PM

    Ironically, the President when reminded about this “criminally” sorry state of affairs of PIA in a recent TV interview, he replied “aap ki nazar main” (only you think that way). What a country!


  • Jan 26, 2012 - 7:04PM

    PIA need to cut on routes which suffer losses.

    Above all it should improve its cabin services.

    Have bigger seats, high standard food and beverages.

    And spend what they earn instead of passing off profits to Finance Ministry.


  • Amjad
    Jan 26, 2012 - 7:32PM

    The problem with PIA is that it enjoys the blind loyalty of so many expatriate Pakistanis. Everyone I know in North America prefers it over any other airline, including Gulf Air, Emirates, Qatar etc. That’s why the PIA flights always seem full travelling to and from North America. Unless people put pressure on PIA, it won’t change.


  • Usman Syed
    Jan 26, 2012 - 7:40PM

    The poor state of affairs at the PIA is a mere reflection of the way the entire country is being run.

    There appears to be chaos everywhere, with an utter lack of leadership. The diasastrous results speak for themselves. The nose-dive could soon end in a fatal crash if the authorities don’t wake up to the realities.

    Without massive restructuring, downsizing of the majority of the non-professional, parasitical workforce, a modern fleet and an emergency cash injection to cope with the immediate needs, the poor PIA stands little chance of survival. What a shame that the once prosperous, proferssional airline that helped establish many a renowned carriers in the past, is now fighting for its survival due to decades of mismangement, neglect and absue by the government.

    The debate must continue in the media to keep this issue in the limelight.


  • Cautious
    Jan 26, 2012 - 8:34PM

    More importantly you haven’t done anything to fix the problem. If you looking for solutions the starting point is to get the military out of the loop – PIA has no business reporting to the dept of defense which is arguably the most inefficient govt organization in Pakistan. Bring in outside experts to manage PIA – yeah that means firing all the top home grown brass currently doing a lousy job. The new management will start by taking on the Union – making it clear who runs the airline and that job cuts, pay cuts, and benefit cuts are the new order of things. For PIA to survive it needs to make money and that will require removing all the accumulated fat it has acquired over the years.


  • khan
    Jan 26, 2012 - 8:46PM

    Yes it used to be profitable……….but now this govet is doing their best to destroy it besides other organisation like railways, steel mills


  • Sabih Zafar Ullah
    Jan 26, 2012 - 9:21PM

    I was travelling to Frankfurt and sitting on the seat above the wing. An engineer was fixing one of the Jet Engines while at Airport in Lahore. He asked his assistance to provide the last bolt, but the assistant couldn’t find it. There was a “chalo khair hai” moment and the two guys left the Engine cover without one of the bolts.
    The Jet was supposed to fly at 800 miles/h at 37000 feet.


  • Jigz
    Jan 26, 2012 - 9:27PM

    That really helped. I have an international flight with PIA in 2 days.


  • Amir
    Jan 26, 2012 - 10:19PM

    Not sure why express is just focusing on PIA. Other private airlines in Pakistan face the same issues. There flights are delayed, cancelled, etc. regularly. I used to travel on the 2nd largest airline in Pakistan, however for past 1-2 years, I haven’t as I have seen their flights delayed as well as cancelled on the last moment.

    Being a business traveller, one has to reach destination on time.

    I do agree the airline is in a loss, due to political influences from governmetn as well as labor union, and tough decision needs to be made.


  • Jan 26, 2012 - 10:52PM

    Is there any department where Pakistan has shown progress besides lawlessness and corruption? Such a beautiful country with immense resources, and look where is she standing today! It is sad, very sad.


  • Shahrez Yalmaz
    Jan 26, 2012 - 11:51PM

    This comment is with regard to the point which states PIA EMPLOYERS FLY FOR FREE (DOMESTIC & LOCAL) ..

    Let me make it very clear to you an employee has the right to avail benefits from his or her employment .. and for your information all employees pay a certain amount of TAX for the ticket no one travels for free ..

    The poor state of the airline is due to HIGHER MANAGEMENT and wrong decisions of hiring PPP members as PIA employee.


  • Parvez
    Jan 26, 2012 - 11:58PM

    The probem is not PIA, the problem is the government.


  • Ilyas Khan
    Jan 27, 2012 - 4:07AM

    No proper scheduled airline in the world is running profitably at the moment. Main reason is high fuel price and historically rock-bottom fares. Now PIA is an essential asset to link this country’s places. Period. Of course there are inefficiencies, mainly due to political appointments. But please, please, do not denigrate the dedication of its flight staff in face of all constraints. I always fly PIA from London to Karachi/Lahore/islamabad. And I am amazed at the regularity and short duration of non-stop flights. I have no links to PIA but I have felt proud of this symbol of Pakistan for the past 45 years.


  • Afaaq
    Jan 27, 2012 - 4:44AM

    The sad part of the topic is, every day we fall further and further into the depths of debt which our children and their children will have to pay. The government keeps borrowing and spending money they dont have, while they plague the country like a disease.Recommend

  • HM
    Jan 27, 2012 - 12:00PM

    PIA Khappy! Khappy! Khappy!


  • R.A
    Jan 27, 2012 - 7:55PM

    All over the world we have unions but then they should be not be affiliated with a political party.In PIA there are unions affiliated with PPP,PML-N,and MQM.though i m not against unions but then their activities should be curtailed or monitored affilation with any political party should end..Regarding the deal which PIA had with Turkish Airlines it had some major draw backs,all of us know that majority of the people travelling with PIA is bcz of the direct routes that PIA offers specially to the old age people and the families with a turkish deal we would have lost that segment of market as well.
    WIth a non revenue ticket one is given a boarding pass at the end and that is only wen u have seats available in the aircraft or one has to travel on the jump seat so that has got nothing to with the crippling state of the airline…
    PIA need a major revamp fresh blood needs to be inducted in the airline at all levels and that only on merit.Young Guys and Gals have the pottential so why not give us a chance and let all the oldies and the recently recruited Jiyalas should be sent home but with the present govt and the incompetent management its just a dream


  • uH
    Jan 27, 2012 - 8:39PM

    Jamhooryat zindabad!


  • Feb 2, 2012 - 6:40AM

    This subversion campaign against PIA makes me want to fly PIA and support Pakistan even more just to spite the anti-Pakistan elements. Recommend

  • wasim
    Feb 2, 2012 - 10:42AM

    PIA should be criticised as being public property, where public pays tax to cover its losses, and not for private copmanies.


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