Pakistani Aviation Industry has almost seen complete destruction in the past two years and the only notable thing to come out of this was the Aviation Policy 2019. But the Aviation Industry of Pakistan is at the mercy of a secretary Aviation who is a bureaucrat with an MA in rural development and a minister whose very qualification is in question and both have zero aviation experience. He also happens to be working as the country’s sole aviation regulator that is Director General Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan. No, where in the world this happens. His single most achievements in the last few years are the destruction of the aviation industry.
- More disruptions as Lahore airports turns into air passengers worst nightmare
- Thai Airways restarts flights to Pakistan from 1st February
- British Airways to “suspends Heathrow Lahore flights”
- Air travel between Pakistan and Iran heats up as 4 airlines intensify operations
- Air Sial operates its first international flight as a special charter to Dubai
After the crash of PK-8303, not even once secretary aviation had the courage to come on media and talk about the disaster. It was his responsibility to handle this crash and its investigation given the fact that he was DGCAA, not anyone else.
The biggest setback to PIA and other Pakistani airlines happened when a destitute license fiasco was unearthed in Pakistan for the first time. A candid Secretary Aviation also working as DGCAA couldn’t handle even a simple issue of pilot’s licenses and made a mess out of it. Pakistani pilot license holders across the world were embarrassed, more than 100 PIA pilots got suspended and later many airlines laid off Pakistani pilots from their jobs which resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in remittances. Then came another disaster for PIA in terms of ban by EASA. This whole fiasco drowned PIA to the rock bottom.
PIA would have filed for bankruptcy had there been any other management today. Till today PCAA as a regulatory body did not conduct a single meeting with all stakeholders of airlines to give feedback on this issue of EASA ban due license. Recently ICAO even posted on their website regarding unsolved issues which is in fact a great embarrassment for our country when we are being compared with Bhutan, Eritrea, Grenada, etc. Is this really Pakistan’s actual worth today? Isn’t this incompetency of PCAA headed by an incompetent DGCAA and why are we still keeping quiet over it?
We all know PIA cannot compete in the product with any other international airlines. The only plus PIA had was direct connectivity to Europe which other carriers don’t offer. The same plus was nullified by our Secretary Aviation/DGCAA who granted direct routes to British Airways which was initially 3 flights from Islamabad, later increased to 5 & finally 7 only from Islamabad. Now 3 weekly flights from Lahore have been granted as well. British Airways started with a Boeing 787-800 which is 226 seats approx. But this direct flight had such a heavy passenger load factor that now BA is flying a Boeing 777 which has 350 seats.
Imagine the kind of revenues being flying out of Pakistan in terms of foreign exchange to BA. Our PCAA seems extremely satisfied by giving more and more passengers to BA and in return get pennies for landing, aeronautical, parking, overflight charges. If taxes are an incentive for our PCAA, let it be known that taxes are applicable as per the Govt policy for all airlines equally. With such a great vision prevailing in PCAA and Aviation Division how can anyone expect a PIA turnaround? Leave PIA aside how any domestic airline can survive in this situation? British Airways fired 10,000 employees & got a bailout of over 1.1 billion USD due to COVID-19 impact, and we are making sure that all the losses incurred by BA due to COVID are offset by offering them Lahore and Islamabad on a plate and destroy domestic aviation.
Another “masterstroke” is giving permission to Virgin Atlantic which filed for Bankruptcy in August 2020 and was actually collapsing. But Aviation Secretary/DGCAA felt its pain in Pakistan and made sure that Virgin Atlantic should not collapse, and get as much support as possible from Pakistan. Thus he granted them direct routes from Pakistan starting December 13th from 4 weekly flights from Islamabad and 3 from Lahore. Emirates is already flying 53 weekly flights from Pakistan. PIA share in the international market has been reduced to only 30% which speaks volumes of the vision of our Aviation Secretary & Aviation Division. Probably their objective is to reduce it down to 3% this year. Rest all the bankrupt airlines must look forward to our aviation division as we have an ever-ready and eager Aviation Secretary who would never negotiate any ASA ( Air Service Agreement) or a BSA ( Bilateral Service Agreement ) and will keep granting other airlines the routes unilaterally so those airlines can avoid bankruptcies at the cost of domestic aviation.
The Biggest issue we face as a nation and even the High Court of Islamabad has taken a cognizant notice of this fact that in a population of 220 million, we are unable to find a competent DGCAA from past two-plus years despite receiving 700 applications and interviewing shortlisted 18 candidates recently. On High court notice, the whole previous process was thrown in the dust bin and a new process will start, GOD knows when that will be completed. The Secretary Aviation who has played havoc with the aviation industry of Pakistan has been extended as Acting DGCAA till 31 December 2020. The question is when we will actually realize that our Aviation industry is on the verge of collapse due to incompetent Aviation minister and his secretary who also acts as DGCAA. We need a capable person as DGCAA to bring this industry out of rock bottom. No aviation policy can be great unless its implementation is done by competent people.
NOTE: This opinion piece is written by a senior airline executive who wants to remain anonymous.