Haj passengers face inordinate delays


Domestic and international passengers, particularly Haj pilgrims, are facing serious hardships due to long delays and frequent flight cancellations by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
Sources in the PIA revealed that the national flag carrier had operated some 107 Haj flights, of which, over 25 percent flights witnessed a delay of more than five hours since the start of the pre-Haj operation on October 1. Figures show that Quetta had the worst arrangements for PIA pre-Haj operations as of a total 29 Haj flights, only 18 flights could depart on time.
Similar situation was being witnessed at other airports in the country. The sources reveal that from Lahore, of the total 15 Haj flights four were delayed, three of 26 from Peshawar, five of 20 from Islamabad and one of the 14 flights from Karachi was delayed due to technical reasons or mismanagement.
However, PIA has transported 39,000 intended pilgrims to Saudi Arabia through 107 flights, they said, adding that on the one hand the national flag carrier did not complete its homework for running Haj operations, while on the other hand PIA was facing resistance from engineers and pilots. The sources claimed that engineers and pilots were observing unannounced go-slow, which was causing frequent flight delays.
In various instances, they pointed out, it had been witnessed that the engineering department had given clearance to aircraft for flying, but pilots rejected them and asked for re-inspection. Speaking to Pakistan Today, a senior PIA captain on condition of anonymity said non-availability of spare parts and mismanagement were two biggest problems, which had jeopardised the smooth operations of the national airline.
He said to avoid theft and pilferage of expensive spare parts, PIA had outsourced its spare parts wing to a Dubai-based company. However, the contract could not be finalised yet that was causing delays in provision of spare parts supply, he maintained.
He said the national flag carrier had acquired two jumbo aircraft on lease from a Greece based operator for Haj operations, but one of these aircraft had been technical while other was operating for domestic flights.
He also smelled a rat in the lease deal as one aircraft had been grounded but the crew was still enjoying holidays in a hotel at Karachi on PIA expense. To a question, he tried to dispel the impression that pilot and engineers were observing unannounced go-slow. He stressed that national flag carrier’s management was trying to hide its negligence by blaming pilots and engineers.