Private airlines to pick up PIA’s stranded passengers

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Shaheen Air and Etihad Airways to take on PIA passengers bound for local and international airports

The top management of the national carrier PIA on Thursday initiated taking other measures to protect the airline from further losses and asked private airlines like Shaheen Air and Etihad Airways to accept PIA’s confirmed passengers for domestic and international flights. PIA has to refund billions of rupees to its passengers at some point.

More than 7,000 to 8,000 passengers have missed their flights in last two days in the wake of the standoff between the Joint Action Committee and the federal government and according to law they are entitled to refunds on their tickets.

In this connection, PIA management has decided to make arrangements with private and international airlines and initially Shaheen Air and Etihad Airways have agreed to pick up PIA’s passengers for domestic flights and bring back Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia after performing Umrah.

The PIA management is also trying to make a deal with a Turkish airline for its confirmed international passengers, but so far an agreement has not been reached.

The management has asked the passengers to contact PIA’s service counters at domestic or international airports to convert their tickets to these private airline on the domestic level while Etihad Airways will do the same for international routes.

Similarly, passengers who have PIA’s confirmed tickets at any international destination can also contact PIA’s staff in their respective countries for conversion of their tickets. The PIA management said that they would also be adjusted in various international airlines soon.

All Pakistani airports have been closed since Tuesday night as employees of the national flag carrier protested the deaths of two colleagues killed while demonstrating against plans to privatise the airline.

All of Pakistan International Airline’s foreign and domestic flights were suspended, and employees held strikes at airports in major cities across the country.

At Karachi’s international airport, demonstrators waved placards and chanted slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, calling on the leader to reverse a bill that converted the carrier into a public limited company.

The national airline’s employees will continue their protests outside the airline’s head office in Karachi until their demands are met, Joint Action Committee of PIA Employees (JACPIAE) Chairman Sohail Baloch told media personnel.

Two days earlier, two protesting employees were shot dead and several more wounded in front of Jinnah Terminal airport when clashes broke out between security forces and the staff, though authorities denied opening fire.

The strike came despite Sharif’s warning the demonstration was illegal and those taking part could face up to a year in prison under a law that restricts union activity in state-administered sectors.

“Everything is shut now and flight operations have come to a complete halt,” PIA spokesperson Danial Gilani told media personnel on Thursday. “The carrier could lose around $4 million in revenue per day,” he added.

He said that all 38 planes of the airline had been grounded for the first time in Pakistan’s history. PIA’s last flight was Pk-722 which arrived from New York last night and landed at Lahore.

The employees said that they would donate a day’s salary to the families of the two employees who were killed.

In December, Islamabad announced that it would complete the partial sale of the airline by July 2016, following years of crushing losses and mismanagement that have battered the airline’s reputation.

However, reports coming from Dubai suggested that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had given more time to federal government for the privatisation of the airline in a meeting held on Thursday and asked the finance minister to adopt measures for its sell off.