LAHORE: It is said that the real test of any management comes during a crisis situation, which shows how well-prepared any organisation is when circumstances go against it. The recent fog in central Punjab coincided with the umrah season and all hell broke loose for the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). I was merely a victim of four domestic flight cancellations, which were supposed to depart from the Lahore airport, for which no prior message through SMS or through a call was received by me. PIA and the Civil Aviation Authority’s call centres were both non-functional. One had to reach the Lahore airport to find out about the cancellations. Passengers going for umrah and to other Middle East destinations ran from pillar to post for seat adjustments in ensuing flights at both the airport and the PIA office.
My hats off to the ticketing officers who tried their best to manage and accommodate PIA clients in every way. Travel agents also facilitated their clients. Pilgrims slept on the airport floor and waiting rooms in the PIA office as the national carrier did not offer or accommodate them in hotels. Pilgrims shouted at the PIA staff, blocked roads and invited the media’s attention as they became desperate in view of expiring visas and no clear information about their flight status. There was no staff from client services of the airline to give any kind of information to people. Simple notices regarding flight status, adjustments, refunds, etc. would have been pasted on PIA counters at the airport, PIA offices and the airline’s website. Alternative helpline numbers should have been displayed in newspapers, electronic media and at PIA offices. Staff strength should have been enhanced at all PIA counters. Other private sector airlines, on the other hand, managed the situation much better and more efficiently, which bolsters the case for PIA’s privatisation as soon as possible.
Tanweer Ahmad Haral
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2015.