According to the Pakistani news media, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will spend 2 billion US dollars to induct three Boeings 777, seven turboprop aircraft by 2003 and integrate Airbus A-340 series aircraft and purchasing two A310-300 freight aircraft in 2006. The reason for buying these aircraft as stated by the Chairman PIA Retired Lt.Gen Hamid Nawaz in a news conference is that these aircraft are available at much lower price than normal. He also said that the PIA board has made this decision because of the worldwide slump in the air travel market especially after 9/11 attacks in US. He further disclosed that the purchase of new aircrafts will be a part of $ 2 billion phased fleet replacement plan to buy almost a dozen planes by 2011. In addition to this, the Managing Director PIA Ch Ahmed Saeed said that the national carrier is determined to take strides ahead and already its complexion in favor of passenger-comfort, profitability and services. He assured that the expectations of the traveling public would be met.
These decisions and statements from the top executives of the only international carrier of Pakistan (PIA) looks appalling when one looks at the ground realities of the performance of PIA in respect to the services provided to the passengers and its status in the international market of Airlines. The PIA, the only national flag carrier has hardly been announced any prominent profit in the last couple of decades. Yet, PIA could not provide the high class comforts and the best services to their passengers but the facilities and fringe benefits being availed by the top officials and the Area Managers are of course high class and can be compared to any high profit earning international airline.
PIA has been suffering from losses every year and the performance of its customer services are getting down in comparison to the other international Airlines while the facilities being provided from the top to middle management and the new appointments are getting higher.
It has been commonly observed by that the Pakistanis living abroad prefer to choose other Airlines than PIA for traveling to Pakistan. Due to the sub-standard services, behavior and arrogant attitude of the managerial staff, PIA never attracted its own country fellows. So, when PIA could not get the business from their own people how can they extend their business among the other travelers? For instance; the PIA branch office in Sydney is located in the heart of Sydney, the CBD, the most expensive place, with all the available luxuries. The Area Manager has been given all the benefits with the accommodation in one of the most expensive places of Sydney. The branch office is equipped with all the facilities with required staff members. However, when one looks at the performance in competition with other Air carriers which fly to Pakistan like Singapore, Bangkok and Malaysian Airlines one finds that PIA performance in relation to the business, passenger services, ticketing, inquiries etc are far from near to the services being provided by referred Airlines. And the reasons are pretty visible by the activities and performance of the area Manager.
Buying new Aircraft, holding offices at the most expensive place in international cities and paying the highest facilities to the Area Managers and other executive staff will never boost the image of PIA in the eyes of international travelers. It has been commonly experience by overseas Pakistanis that the Area Managers and other executives, particularly stationed in the western countries including Australia are found enjoying the luxuries in life, getting respect from the Pakistani community as granted, frequently traveling on PIA expense but when one looks at their performance and customer service these are far from the international standards.
If the government of Pakistan is really sincere to bring the good image among the international customer services of its national flag carrier in regard to the traveling business, it has to change the present culture of PIA. The performance of international offices and their managers should be investigated and refined.
The writer is a Sydney-based freelance journalist and a political analyst.