View Full Version : PIA and petty politics By Abdul Waris - 9th February 2016

9th February 2016, 10:23 AM
The recent Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) crisis has just served to add to the disrepute of the country. There have been reports that about three billion rupees losses (which is a very cautious estimate) have already been incurred due to the ongoing strikes and stalemate causing the defunct organization to bleed more. Our opposition political parties are engaged in adding fuel to the fire. Unfortunately, media houses and most talk shows have found this topic more attractive for gaining some rating points without doing any research and analysis, something that has been missing for so long in our electronic media.

There is no doubt that the federal government has mishandled the issue as, according to some critics, it lacks the political maturity to settle important matters but it seems rigidity is prevalent in the stance of both parties. The deprived passengers who are also the stakeholders in this whole scenario are losing out the most despite paying valuable money to obtain the right to travel. Our feeble economy is no longer in a position to bear this white elephant, which has eroded our national exchequer to the extent of more than Rs 200 billion in the last 10 years and has only added disrepute to our national flag without giving any relief to its passengers by any means.

What is more important is that our poor nation cannot take the burden of this white elephant, which according to estimates is losing about Rs 10 crores daily.This is sheer injustice to the poor people of the country, the majority (around 70 percent) of whom still live below the poverty line and are unable to make both ends meet. It is illogical that this hefty loss has to be added to our budget deficit, which will then need to be narrowed by imposing taxes, most of which will be indirect such as sales tax on petroleum and other daily use products to be used by the common man whose life has already been marred by increasing unemployment and prolonged terrorism.

In-depth analysis and financial investigation suggest that this organization is defunct for all practical purposes and that there are just two options left: one is to shut it down to avoid bleeding the national exchequer, which has already suffered huge losses in recent years and the other one is to sell it to the private sector to salvage it from total collapse. If restructuring was an option it could have been exercised several years before but due to poor governance, nepotism and rampant corruption, which have unfortunately been the hallmarks of our political governments, this situation has gone from bad to worse.

Recently, interesting research conducted by one of the leading media networks revealed that PIA had the second worst employee to aircraft ratio in the world after Syrian Airlines. It has about 400 employees per plane if daily wages are excluded while their inclusion in this calculation makes this ratio even worse. Syrian Airlines has about 4,000 staffers for a mere 10 planes, which makes the ratio of 400 employees per plane. Air India has about 114 employees per aircraft, Ireland Ryan Air has about 30 employees per plane, Indonesian Airlines has about 56 staffers per plane, Turkish Airways has 63 employees per plane and American Southwest Airlines has about 68 employees per aircraft. This ratio is 70.4 in the case of Air China, 76 in Finland Airlines, 76 in Caribbean Airlines of Trinidad, 97 in Swiss Airlines, 102 in case of Air New Zealand, 110 in American Delta Airlines, 135 in BritishAirways, 174 in Iran Air and so on and so forth.

About 75 percent of airlines all around the world are privately owned. Transparency and a thoroughly professional approach guided by rational decisions have somewhat been missing in our recent regimes so expecting the present rulers to make the huge turnaround in this organisation to restore it to profitability will be tantamount to building castles in the air. Poor governance, lack of accountability, nepotism and political interference have virtually demolished this national flag carrier,which shows no signs of recovery in the near future. The government can earmark some special funds for those employees who may have to be laid off but can be accommodated in some development projects or in other organisations if possible. It is hoped that all stakeholders will sit together to avert further problems and come up with pragmatic solutions to end this stalemate forever. The national interest must prevail over all individual and petty political interests.The country has already witnessed too many crises and the helpless people do not deserve to experience any more.