Talha Makhdoom/ Faraz Israr

KARACHI - The tussle between Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (PALPA) and PIA administration yesterday landed 5,500 passengers in trouble. The national flag carrier cancelled 44 flights that cost Rs140 million to the national exchequer.

The tension grew the other day when 22 flights were canceled after the pilots went on strike against the cancelation of licences of their colleagues. A PIA official said that due to the strike, 20 domestic and 24 international flights were canceled and 60 delayed. The PIA management reported to have summoned a meeting with all member associations except the PLAPA. PIA Chairman Nasir Jafar told the media that he was “unaware of the purpose of this episode” while the doors for negotiations with the protesting pilots were open.

“The PIA management has been negotiating with the pilots since September 28 to resolve the issues,” Nasir said. He claimed that he was “oblivious” of the demands of PALPA. But, he said the authorities were “making efforts” to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Furthermore, the arrangements were being made to send the passengers through other airlines. He added that the national flag carrier didn’t have a system to “assess the loss by such strikes”.

He added that more than 35 flights were canceled after the protest of PALPA. He said that authorities were taking steps for the betterment of the PIA and an agreement had been signed with Qatar to acquire 13 aircraft.

However, the PALPA Capt Amir Hashmi blamed the mess on PIA high-ups. He said that pilots did not delay any haj flight and the management of the national airline got “involved in blame game to hide its inefficiency”.

“We have already directed all our members not to delay any haj flight,” Amir said. He claimed that the organisation has been trying to talk to the management for three months on the working agreement but to no avail.

On the other hand, the Civil Aviation Authority claimed that it cancelled the licences of Capt I Kaleem and Capt Zahid over alleged unlawful flight operation.

A CCA spokesperson said in a statement said the authority was responsible for the safety of air operations, ensuring that the operators were abiding by the rules and regulations and conforms to ICAO SARPs for the safe conduct of their flight operations. “These PIA pilots were found in deliberate flight safety violation and disregard the rules and regulations, endangering the life of passengers, PIA airplane and above all repute of the national carrier airline of Pakistan,” the spokesperson stated.

A formal investigation was carried out in this gross violation committee by the PIA pilots and it was revealed that the cockpit crew were deliberately allowed to violate the safety regulations on the directives of PALPA.

But the PALPA chief claimed that the pilots were being victimized by PIA and CAA for criticising the National Aviation Policy.

“We have been trying to talk to the management for three months on the working agreement so it is wrong to say that the current situation has been developed due to the cancellation of the licenses of our two pilots,” added Amir.

“The management is not scheduling the roaster for pilots as per laws. We had been painstakingly operating such flights just to save our jobs and our licenses,” said Amir.

“The fact is the inefficient management has panicked and instead of correcting the ill-planned flight rosters, are shifting the blame on PALPA for their sins.”

Interestingly, he added, the management has invited all unions of the airline except PALPA for negotiations. “They cancelled their programme to invite PALPA for negotiations after receiving a call from an important government official, and now they would try to get favorable statement from all the unions,” he added.