Pakistan International Airlines has continued to shock and awe and the senate is no exception either – a monthly loss of Rs5.6 billion is being added to the already outstanding liabilities of over Rs300 billion – this was explained to a Senate committee by the PIA management on Wednesday. With monthly earnings of Rs7.5 billion against expenses of over Rs13 billion (with over Rs4 billion spent paying mark-up and rent) it is easy to see why the problems of the national carrier seem increasingly beyond the government’s power to fix.

The latest in the series of travesties the airline is beset with was yet another embarrassment for PIA, when a taxying airplane of the national carrier clipped the wing of a stationary Air France plane at the Toronto Pearson Airport. Even if the fault lies with the ground staff responsible for marshalling the plane, the series of unfortunate events that continue to take place in and around PIA planes is not doing anything to re-instil the confidence of customers. Add that to the damages in monetary value caused by incidents of this nature, and we have a recipe for disaster.

While it is true that the airline has generated more revenue this year compared to the previous one, surely pinning the blame for Rs5.6 billion monthly worth of losses on the ‘open skies’ policy of Pakistan is not enough. Other countries apply the same policy, and both international and national airlines have enough to compete for. International airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways get more customers from the country because they have more to offer, both in terms of service and quality of the product being meted out.

There has to come a point when the government establishes that the fate of PIA cannot be fixed by anything the state is looking to do. Guaranteed, one cannot fault the government for trying, but each misstep and failure is leading the national carrier into a pitfall that even private investors may not be able to drag it out of – if the state delays in privatising the entity any longer.

Attempting to reduce the liabilities has clearly not worked. The airline continues to accumulate debt and its assets will only depreciate with time. Privatisation now would mean that the government could still get some value out of a national asset, even if it is steeped in liabilities; put this off for later and there will be nothing but scrap left soon.