As competition continues to take its toll on airlines around the world, executives are increasingly focusing the turnaround time of aircraft to keep cost low and delays at a minimum.
But legacy carriers like Pakistan International Airlines, which have for years operated with excess employees grouped together in powerful unions, make the job of managers difficult when it comes to bringing about a change in old practices.
According to Flightstats, which tracks the performance of airlines, PIA has a 51% and 43% on-time schedule for its departure and arrival flights, respectively. (The website took a sample of 41 departures and 30 arrivals).
Around 14.6% of the departures monitored were delayed for between 15 to 30 minutes, 19% went past the scheduled departing time by 30 to 45 minutes, 14.9% by more than 45 minutes.
Similarly, arriving flights that were delayed by 15-30 minutes constituted 10%, around 16.7% were delayed for 30 to 45 minutes, while 30% missed the scheduled arriving time by more than 45 minutes.
Flightstats does not have sufficient data on Shaheen Air International (SAI). But industry people say the private airline has also been facing regular delays despite increasing its fleet in 2013.
PIA officials say that shortage of airworthy aircraft is the main reason behind the delays. “For years, we have been flying very old planes, which have frequent technical breakdowns. That is really frustrating for us.”
Recently, PIA has been making efforts to increase the number of aircraft in its fleet by acquiring planes on wet and dry lease.
However, some delays are for reasons beyond control. Being a government-owned organisation, politicians routinely force the airline to hold the plane until they board. Recently, Senator Rehman Malik reportedly caused a delay in the departure of a PIA flight after failing to arrive on time.
On other occasions, disgruntled employees also contribute to the delays.
The go-slow movements by pilots are notorious whenever a confrontation erupts with the management.
Nevertheless, there have times when PIA employees have shown that they could rise to the occasion. Something like this happened during last year’s Hajj season.
PIA’s B-777 international flights usually took two hours to take off again after landing. But as part of efforts to improve the airline’s efficiency, ground staff in Peshawar cleaned the seats, loaded supplies, let old and young Hajj pilgrims board the aircraft and made it ready to fly again in 40 minutes.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.
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