PIA to rehire retired pilots

Published: August 6, 2010
Airline looks 
for quick fix to 
go-slow policy

Airline looks for quick fix to go-slow policy

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has started hiring retired pilots on a contractual basis to ensure its flights are not delayed due to shortage of pilots, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The PIA has borne losses of approximately one billion rupees in the past two weeks due to the go-slow policy of the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (Palpa). Members of the association, which represents PIA pilots, have been refusing to operate scheduled flights, saying that the airline makes them work longer hours than advised for pilots. Official PIA figures show that since the strike began, 64 international and domestic flights have been delayed while 12 flights had to be cancelled.

According to sources, this decision was made by PIA’s board of directors in a meeting last month that was chaired by Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar. Participants decided that to overcome the shortage of pilots, PIA will hire experienced pilots who had retired from the airline upon attaining the retirement age of 60 years. However, they will now be contractual employees.

PIA was the only airline in the country that did not rehire pilots after retirement. Internationally, as well as according to the rules of Pakistan’s aviation regulatory body the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), pilots can fly to the age of 65 years. Private Pakistani airlines,  Shaheen International Airlines and Airblue both employ a number of pilots who are between 60 and 65 years of age. The policy has come under scrutiny since an Islamabad-bound plane of Airblue crashed in to the Margalla Hills on July 28, killing all 152 people on board. The pilot was 62 years old.

Sources claimed that the PIA had adopted this policy to avoid further ‘blackmailing’ by Palpa members. The airline’s managers, sources said, believe that the Palpa will not be able to manipulate these rehired pilots who will be used in place of Palpa pilots who refuse to fly. The management has also decided that they will revoke contracts of these pilots if they played into Palpa’s hands. Representatives of Palpa and PIA have met twice but negotiations have failed. Desperate to go ahead with flights, PIA’s managing director Captain Ijaz Haroon has himself had to fly three domestic flights.

PIA’s general manager for public relations Sultan Hassan, when contacted, confirmed that the board of directors had approved rehiring pilots as per the CAA’s policy. “PIA needs pilots with experience of flying big planes. This opportunity is open for all those pilots who have retired but still fulfill the CAA’s criteria as well as for those who are about to retire,” he said.

Speaking about the legality of this move, Hassan said that this clause was included in the working agreement 2009-2011 that was signed between the PIA and Palpa.

Talking about Palpa’s demands and the go-slow policy, he said that the PIA gave its pilots enough relaxation time. “PIA is already paying huge amounts to its pilots and giving them relaxation time as per international flying rules,” he said.

Palpa General Secretary Captain TM Rabbani also confirmed that the PIA had started hiring retired pilots but said that according to an agreement between the PIA and Palpa, pilots cannot be rehired without consultation with Palpa. “We will not allow the hiring of those pilots who do not abide by Palpa’s safety parameters,” he said, adding that even if they did allow it to go ahead, rehiring them would be useless. He suggested that the PIA should give a chance to new pilots and deal with pending promotions to overcome the shortage.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Aug 6, 2010 - 10:12AM

    The National Carrier should always have extra strength of pilots to meet the requirements.

    PIA has changed its slogan “Come Fly With US” from “Great People to Fly With”.

    When PIA is inviting people to come and fly with PIA, it should also make sure that Cabin Crew should always be similing and serve the passengers with utmost care. The aircraft should leave in time and there should be no technical problems what so ever.

    PIA does not provide good food during the flights and should make necessary arrangements to provide best food.

    All these things when coupled together will make the passengers feel to choose PIA as their first option when travelling within or outside the country, resulting in earning more revenue to meet its ongoing financial losses.Recommend

  • Aug 6, 2010 - 10:16AM

    Oh God! It’s the sign of more dangers…Recommend

  • Aug 6, 2010 - 10:49AM

    This is going to be real bad for Flight safety, when PIA desperated to beat PALPA pressure would end up hiring old pilots, some of them even suffering from serious ailments, like diabetes, hearing problems, hypertension, poor eyesight, cardiac problems, old age senility etc. The Minister for Defense, who also happens to be Chairman of PIA and head of CAA, must understand that aviation is a very unforgiving business, with no room on compromises for maintenance and pilots mental and physical health. Can he explain the repititive engine failurs on the same aircraft which last had an engine failure on 2 Aug. What are the causes that have lead to deterioration of maintenance in PIA and its poor flight puncuality much prior to the recent go slow by pilots. The Air blue crash should have woken up the MOD, instead it seems to bent on more compromises. What can we expect from CAA, whose minister does not seem to be bothered by the factors that might have played a part in the Air Blue crash. These are very serious issues, which if not tackled properly might lead to a ban on PIA and CAA, like the EU ban. The GOP must evaluate as what are the causes of tension between pilots, engineers and PIA. Maybe there is some issue of personal conflicts which dominate the working of management and the collective union of pilots namely PALPA. Whatever the reason safety should never be compromised and I am afraid it will be given the personality clash that exists. This is not a political issue, it is an issue of Flight Safety.Recommend

  • Aug 6, 2010 - 11:42AM

    Medical science and research proves that the average man’s mental capabilities start declining and the brain cells start dying after 45 to 50 years of age. Even in countries facing acute human shortages, the age of superannuation has been fixed based on these medical facts. There is no country in the developed world where pilots are allowed to fly beyond national retirement age. This is not a ground job we are talking of here. The problem is that every man above 60 does not accept these realities. It is an issue that effects the safety of passengers who pay to travel and whose revenues keep the airlines flying and pay salaries to employees. This extension from 60 to 62 and than 65 for pilots may be of benefit for the individual, but does not seem to be good for the passengers, especiallly when there is no shortage of pilots in Pakistan or even PIA. Let an audit by an independent body prove the justification for rehiring pilots after retirement. The total number of pilots in PIA is more than the number it needs to fly the serviceable number of aircrafts. Statistics of PIA fleet utliization would prove my point and so will the under-utilization of pilots. The problem is a deliberate creation of a shortage on higher equipments like B777, because those who decide(pilot management) stand to benefit from it in terms of higher salaries and allowances, apart from the benefit of their own rehirement. All that PIA needs is to train its surplus pilots waiting for training or flying other equipment, and make them operational for B777, A310 B747 etc. This is the role of CAA and MOD and they have failed.Recommend

  • mehdi shahi
    Aug 6, 2010 - 7:08PM

    Good decision by PIA’S board of directors that the retired captains will be made available to bridge the go slow policy of PALPA’S infected captains.it was a matter of shame and embarrassment for every one,specially who purchase a TICKET and then wait for the CAPTAIN SAHIB to fly the air craft. Delay in flight departure or cancellation of a flight has numerous repercussion.that includes hotels to passengers ect ect putting the PIA into more losses,despite its goods and bads PIA is still the best option.Recommend

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