ISLAMABAD - While the incumbent management of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) claims to have saved millions of rupees with the closure of loss-making flying routes and offline stations abroad, the PIA personnel unions oppose this move.
This is the second time the PIA unions look to stand at odds with the management over a major decision pertaining to the state-run airline. Last month, the Joint Action Committee of Pakistan International Airlines’ Employees (JACPIAE) apposed the federal government’s decision to give a go-ahead to the airline’s privatisation , while claiming that the government-owned loss-making entity was “on the road to recovery.” 
In a fresh statement issued Thursday last, the JACPIAE had suggested, “instead of closing down historic routes on pretext of losses calculated by incompetent non-aviation personnel , the airline using its in-house experienced staff should conduct a study how these routes can be made profitable and how other airlines are making profits on same routes .”
The statement was issued to welcome what JACPIAE said were the “positive intentions of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif regarding early revival of the airline.”
The unions and associations representing different cadres of PIA employees met Special Assistant to Prime Minister Shujaat Azeem in a specially convened meeting during which a ‘special message’ from the PM was conveyed to the PIA employees, the media release stated.
“The PM in his message conveyed through Shujaat Azeem said that he wants PIA to regain the lost glory and become best airline of the world,” according to JACPIAE, a collective platform of several PIA unions.
Welcoming this initiative, the unions said PM’s special assistant on aviation is helping the government to “set things right for this national asset and all employees are there to work as one team for the betterment of the airline.”
The statement, however, stated the only solution to airline’s growing problems is to expand and earn more and more revenues from the routes where other airlines are also increasing frequencies and earning revenues.
On the other hand, a PIA report available with The Nation regarding the closure of offline stations last year states the loss-making routes of Amsterdam and Frankfurt were closed on September 3, 2013, “thereby saving Pak Rs 400 million per year.”
Offline stations of Chicago, Sydney, Glasgow, and Yanbo have been closed, “thereby saving Pak Rs 150 million per year,” the report titled “45 Days Progress in Aviation Division,” reveals. It covers a period from June 10-July 25, 2013, the time period Shujaat Azeem performed duties as Advisor to Prime Minister on Aviation before stepping down.
One of the two offices in London (Piccadilly and Hammersmith), having 69 PIA staff members, was closed and staff strength was reduced from 69 to 25, which would save 250,000 pounds per year, the report stated.
The federal government has kicked off the process of PIA’s 26 per cent shares sell-off in a bid to pull the cash-starved airline out of the crises, with billions of rupees being incurred on the airline annually without any productive results.
The JACPIAE says the PIA personnel regardless of their cadres are united and will support the government in the revival process “but restructuring for privatisation should be placed on backburner as even passengers especially those abroad get a wrong signal by privatisation trumpet.
The privatisation should be discussed with the employees and all the efforts and energies should first be put to revive the airline to achieve customer satisfaction through service and comfort.”
In a recent interview with this correspondent, Shujaat Azeem had assured the PIA personnel there would be no forced lay-off as result of privatisation and the federal government would follow the policy of “consultation not confrontation.”
This has gone well with the PIA unions’ representatives. “It is very encouraging that Shujaat Azeem believes in mutual trust and wants to take all unions and associations into consultation and not confrontation,” the JACPIAE said Thursday. “It is a good omen that the government for the first time is actually taking employees into confidence.”
It said the airline’s revival also depends on initiating a culture of reward where employees perform their duties par excellence but similarly the corruption should also be rooted out from top to bottom. The unions also lauded the PIA managements’ decision to acquire at least 20 long, medium and short-range aircraft.
Earlier on January 20, the JACPIAE had said that privatisation or downsizing were “not an option for PIA at the time when domestic, regional and international competitors keep expanding in all directions.”