ISLAMABAD - Chief Executive Officer of Pakistan International Airline Dr Rasool Cyan has paid a sum of Rs2.38 million to the airline as airfare for 43 guest passengers, who travelled from Islamabad to Skardu on the inaugural Air Safari flight, claimed a report of the PIA submitted to the Supreme Court on Saturday.

A sum of Rs1.46 million was recovered from Rasool’s salary for June and remaining amount of Rs0.91 million was paid by him through cheque on July 24, the report further claimed.

Pakistan International Airline Corporation Limited (PIACL) submitted the report in the Supreme Court on the suo motu regarding alleged unauthorised tour to Nanga Parbat on the PIA Plane.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had taken notice after the video of protesting passengers at Skardu Airport went viral alleging officials of Civil Aviation (CAA) and PIA for providing VIP trip to their family members and causing delay in the flight. 

The report stated the allegation that regular passengers of flight PK-452 Skardu to Islamabad, who were waiting for the plane at the Airport to return to Islamabad were made to wait and suffer because of extended flight time for the Air Safari guests, was misconceived and entirely incorrect.  The 10-page report added that the total delay experienced by passengers of flight PK-452 was approximately 91 minutes.

Replying to complaints by passengers at Skardu, as seen in the video being circulated on social media that the PIA Plane being used for alleged joy ride by VIPs, the report stated that it was erroneously misreported.

The PIACL had announced the re-launch of Air Safari flight a month before the actual date with every day countdown running on digital media, it added.

The report stated that protest and making its video was a deliberate plan of passengers to gain political mileage.

“Flight PK-453 had a planned delay a week before departure. Booked passengers were called and informed, and thereafter, were sent text messages well in time three days before flight departure, at their given numbers. In the case of protesting passenger Muneeza Nasrullah, text messages were delivered at the contact number provided by her. At the airport, Nasrullah, passenger aggrieved by other factors took advantage of the situation by seeing high ranking aviation officials to malign them and putting their annoyance on the VIP culture. They made sure cameras were ready when the scene was created and the lady kept on asking everyone if the cameras are still rolling for political mileage,” the report contended.

It added that in addition to planned delay, the flight was delayed for an additional hour due to weather conditions as it was raining heavily in Islamabad. Regarding the complaints of passengers on facilities at the airport, the PIACL stated that it had noted genuine concerns and was working closely with CAA to provide the best possible services.

It further submitted that flight in question was not an unauthorized tour arranged but a regular scheduled flight from Islamabad to Skardu (PK-451) and back (PK-452). In fact, it added, PICL operates return flight between Islamabad and Skardu on a daily basis.

The said flight on which the Air Safari passengers were travelling was in no way designated as a VIP or special flight, nor was its purpose to exclusively arrange a tour to visit for dignitaries or guests but was in fact a regular flight which was marketed as Air Safari Flight for advertising and promoting the interest amongst the potential customers, it said.

The PIACL stated that the flight had a low number of seats sold since the flight was on a Monday and therefore the Air Safari was planned on this day.

It claimed that there was no revenue loss to PIACL and on the other hand wasted capacity seats were put to effective use to gain advantage by marketing these as Air Safari.

“43 guests were accommodated on only the available capacity still leaving 17 seats unoccupied in PK-451 and 8 unoccupied seats in PK-452,” it added. It said that out of 20 PIACL employees, 18 were on official duty whereas 2 seats were occupied by family members as per PIA employees as per entitlement policy, which is subject to sub-load.

PIACL stated that its aim behind the Air Safari initiative was to generate significant revenues and promote tourism in Pakistan by capitalizing on the fact that Pakistan had some of the highest peaks in the world.

“The concept of Air Safari was therefore to sell vacant seats on regular flights from Islamabad to Skardu and back to higher fares, capturing customers with willingness-to-pay for air tourism of some of the tallest peaks of the world located in Pakistan,” it added.

There were no extraneous considerations other than the interest of PIACL and to desire to make the Air Safari a success story, and to generate additional revenue without deploying too many additional resources, the report stated.

The guest list prepared by PIACL’s team for the inaugural of Air Safari flight included corporate heads, diplomats, heads of leading travel agencies, certain other well-known personalities such as bloggers, influencers.

“The sole objective in preparing this list was to target persons who were either opinion-makers or could bring potential business opportunities for PIACL through promoting the Air Safari campaign,” it added.

“The aim behind inviting them to travel on the inaugural Air Safari flight for free was to fill up unsold seats on the scheduled flight to create hype, media interest, tourism and revenue opportunities for northern areas and PIACL,” it added.