Can’t seem to take off


Ineffective operations of Pakistan International Airlines and its recklessness


Pakistan International Airlines was once considered the prominent national flag carrier of Pakistan. Unfortunately, its performance has witnessed a drastic downturn over the years, and travelers no longer give priority to this airline. The ineffective operations of PIA are attributed to its ineffective management and incompetence of former chairmen which have deteriorated its performance over the years. Besides, the failure of the management in maintaining a frequent accountability of the operations, ineffective planning, mismanagement and exploitation of its resources together contribute to its ineffective operations.

Over employment in PIA is a prominent problem, which marks its inefficiency in work operations. PIA employs more than 400 employees per aircraft; whereas on average the ratio of staff should not exceed 100 per aircraft. Overstaffing is a burden on the organisation’s resources, and it absorbs a higher than normal percentage of total revenues. Currently, PIA employs more than 18,000 employees, and the number is rapidly growing due to strong power of trade unions, which clearly resists the movement of personnel from overstaffed to understaffed stations. This is consequently forcing PIA into unjustified cost structure, thereby resulting in its inefficiency in work operations.

The role of unions and its opposition play a negative role in exercising undue influence on the airline’s management. The unions strongly criticise the idea of the management to employ fairly paid, globally competent aviation professionals to achieve efficiency of work operations. The unions are reluctant to accept the demand of the management to scrutinise the performance of employees, and terminate the ineffective ones. They are bent upon claiming the fact that the employees are competent and demonstrate proven expertise required to meet the work standards of PIA. This inexpressible patriotism of labor unions over proven competence and expertise of its employees is rendered as its self-damaging resistance, which consistently impedes the effective work performance of PIA’s employees.

On-ground passenger handling is another flaw, which characterises ineffective operations of PIA. At present, the national flag carrier lacks investment to replace its inefficient and unserviceable aircraft, and to improve its equipment and facilities. It is tied in unsustainable debt, which has been accumulated due to decades of losses attributed to overstaffing and mismanagement. The dismal financial picture of PIA is a bottleneck in reaping work efficiency over the years. The financial loss of 64 billion rupees has been incurred from 2005 to 2008. The losses were even worse in 2009 to 2010 due to increase in the fuel’s price, and devaluation of Pakistani rupee. An additional loss of 44.5 billion rupees was incurred in year 2013. Overall, in the past four years; there has been an increase of losses by 175%, which creates a miserable picture and hampers the effective implementation of proposed plans of government and PIA’s management.

Owing to substantial financial losses, there has not been a notable financial investment in improvement of ramp services equipment of aircraft of PIA since past 20 years. There stands a dire need of adequate funds to invest in improvement of existing passenger buses and to purchase new ones as well as to replace the ground cooling units for the cabins of aircrafts for summers. The faulty state of equipment of aircrafts is a sheer recklessness on part of the management, which fails to recognise a timely check on the equipment’s functioning, and arranging adequate funds for their improvement.

Such instances of faulty equipment and services of the aircrafts of PIA augmented with frequent customer complaints especially of flight delays and cancellations, aircraft’s frequent crash landings and its virtual crash considering the recent incident of PIA’s aircraft’s crash nearby Abbotabad together contribute to its decline in revenue as passengers do not feel mentally secure flying in it. The management’s recklessness is held responsible for this grave scenario, which impedes the effective work operations of PIA in the long-run.

It is indeed a thought provoking issue as to why the managing members of PIA, who are entitled to highest salaries and fringe benefits remain negligent to the delicate issues of maintenance and repairs of aircrafts. It is a serious question as to why the chairmen of organisation from Chaudhry Ahmed Saeed to Zafar Khan have failed to adopt preventive measures to safeguard the pride of our national aircraft. The management’s foolhardy attitude of getting tangled in corrupt practices and its blame game fails to meet the desirable work targets of PIA, thereby succumbing to its ineffective work operations. It can be asserted with confidence that the corrupt practices of former chairmen and the managing members of PIA have made it a white elephant and consequently have caused a huge loss to the economy.

The afore-mentioned scenarios highlight the causes characterising the ineffective operations of PIA. Considering these issues, there stands an indispensable need for the management of PIA and the government to chalk out a stringent mechanism for addressing these serious issues. Negotiations with the trade unions should be regularly conducted to improve the work operations.