To understand what is going on at Pakistan International Airlines we got our hands on a message written by a senior PIA official. This message was shared among senior managers of various organizations and subsequently leaked to media by someone. We have verified this message’s authenticity and reproducing it with a few changes that make it easier for readers to understand.
Pakistan International Airline (PIA) is National Flag Carrier, which undertakes international flights to 21 destinations across the globe. Over a period and especially in the last decade or so, a downward trend was noted, resulting in almost reaching a stage where the closure of business was being considered as a solution to this national asset.
Bold and diverse initiatives
Since the assumption of command by new management in 2018, bold and diverse initiatives including but not only limited to merit-based policies, commercial orientation, the involvement of Board of Directors, strict discipline, and accountability were taken. Additionally, management endured the conclusion of three years of audits in record time with no observations. Unprecedented improvements in audited figures for the last two years were registered. In 2019, revenue increase by 42.5%, reduction in the operating loss by 76%, and after 8 years, gross profit of Rs 7.8 Billion vs gross loss of Rs 19 Billion in 2018 was registered.
During the current on-going COVID-19 pandemic PIA has operated special flights to countries like Australia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Sudan, and Kenya in addition to Central Asian Republics. Another feather in the cap in Pakistan Aviation Industry was achieved that subsequent to the successful completion of detailed security and safety assessment by US Transport Security Administration (TSA) and strict compliance with US Home Land Security regime, PIA acquired authorization for direct charter flights to/from the USA for repatriation of stranded citizens for limited period. This was executed in a successful manner. This was first ever a time that PIA directly flew to the USA as previously it has always been routing to the USA via Manchester or Frankfurt.
SAFA Index improvement
PIA’s Safety Oversight of Foreign Airlines (SAFA) index has also improved considerably over the years from 2.0 to the current value of 0.59. In the year 2019, it remained at a much better rate than what was ever achieved in PIA. Additionally, IATA Operators Safety Audit (IOSA) was also successfully completed in late 2019.
PIA was banned for operations in 2007 as its SAFA index rose to unacceptable figures, the ban was lifted after improvements demonstrated by PIA in 2009. Since 2009, compliant to EASA regulations, PIA has operated its flights to/from EU states safely. EASA undertook regular two-yearly safety Audits in 2015, 2017, and 2019. Various observations have always surfaced but the same had been addressed in due course of time in a professional manner. In the last audit of 2019, 06 observations were raised, out of which 05 were cleared however last one was to be cleared by June this year which is delayed due to pandemic situation. This was pending as most of the related staff could not attend to offices due to lockdown imposed by local Govt in the backdrop of a pandemic.
Subsequent to the case of suspected pilot licenses and the crash of PIA flight PK8303, EASA has suspended PIA operations in the EU without adequate warning. The situation is grave and a real source of concern. The issue of fake degrees and irregular practices in acquiring commercial pilot licenses was being probed since 2018. PIA at its own initiative despite knowing the probable outcome, shared names of such suspected pilots with CAA, and grounded them all blocking their salaries as well in Jan’2019. Upon instructions of Sindh High Court, the salaries have been restored, however, a formal investigation into irregularities in grant of pilot licenses by Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority was launched as a deliberate attempt; part of reform program of incumbent government aimed.
- Enhancing the level of aviation safety while restructuring the aviation sector.
- Cleaning the aviation sector of nefarious elements involved in malpractices, bringing improvement in standards and quality in Airline operations.
Reform and restructuring in PIA
Subsequent to the initial findings of the investigation by the Ministry of Aviation and upon receipt of information, without any delay, PIA grounded all such suspected pilots with immediate effect. Thereafter, in anticipation, all safety regulators including EASA and IATA were approached. These agencies were shared that PIA would ensure that all PIA flights are strictly being monitored for compliance with international safety and quality standards. Moreover, it was clarified that PIA aircraft will only be operated by the cockpit crew who have verified pilot licenses as endorsed by CAA and would carry the documents as well. Rather than being circumspect, the EU must feel more confident and assured that the process of reform and restructuring in PIA has been started at such a massive level in the interest of the safety of passengers.
EASA appeal within 15 days
While this ban has been enforced, PIA has been asked to clarify its stance on future strategy regarding fake licenses. It is evident that the responsible organization is CAA which is the regulatory body, PIA has shared its recommendations with the Aviation Division and requested them to enforce concrete measures to restore the repute of the regulatory body to ensure the exclusion of all such personnel who were involved in this discrepancy. Additionally, PIA, as per authorized mandate by EASA, would go for appeal within 15 days. We have also constituted an in-house executive committee to formulate timelines and the strategy to address the last 6th pending observation by EASA. We are hopeful that PIA would be able to address the concerns of EASA. We would push CAA, which is the main agency to ensure compliance of foolproof systems in place to avoid any such occurrence in the future.
Mishandling of licenses
I tend to agree with some of the writers that the case has been mishandled and the outcome or spirit of the entire process has been misrepresented.
This act must actually be appreciated in fact that to earn a long run creditability and professional ground PIA chose to suffer rather than to defend and save the black sheep just to look nice to the world while putting so many lives at stake. PIA is still proud to leap forward from this non-professional arena.