LAHORE -  Ironically, Pakistan International Airlines management has interviewed the same employees for the slot of chief executive officer (CEO) who played a major role in increasing airline losses to the tune of billions.

Those interviewed included current Acting CEO Bernd Hildenbrand, former MD Captain Aijaz Haroon, Director Administration and Passenger Handling Ijaz Mazhar, Director Finance Kaleem Malik, Air Marshal (r) Saeed, former director marketing Kamran Hassan and a few others.

Bernd, who tops the list of interviewees, had joined PIA as a CEO in May this year, and started Premier Service, an idea which has flopped given the fact that the new service is going in losses.

Senate’s standing committee was told in its last meeting that the Service had caused the loss of more than Rs1.20 billion in just two months.

Also, the lease agreement signed with Sri Lankan Airline (SLA) was also on very inflated rates, as compared to the agreement signed by SLA with Iran.

The debt-ridden SLA leased four of its A330 aircrafts to PIA as a cost-cutting measure to save itself from impending bankruptcy. Of late, Sri Lanka has also been in talks with Iran to lease out the remaining two A330s along with the A350s for cost cutting measures. SLA was paying $450,000 per month as installment for each A330, which comes to $15,000 per day.

On the other hand, PIA is paying approximately $8,000 per hour as lease charges, which for the 17-hour return Islamabad-London-Islamabad flight comes to $136,000.

Sources in the airline said that PIA losses rose by 163 percent in Asif Zardari's crony Captain Aijaz Haroon’s stint, who is also included in the list of interviewees.

A senior PIA officer, on the condition of anonymity, said that PIA had been reduced to a white elephant in less than four years by a management dominated by mediocre officials, appointed on the basis of links with political figures and having a history of financial indiscipline.

The numbers given in PIA’s Third Quarterly Report for January-September 2011, available on airlines website, speaks for the professional competence, efficiency, integrity and skills of the PIA’s management running the airline since March 2008. PIA's total accumulated losses stood at Rs42.416 billion in March 2008 and according to Third Quarterly Report 2011, these losses rose astronomically by 162.416 percent, touching the figures of Rs111.543 billion as on September 31, 2011. This means that in just three-and-a-half year, the net rise was over Rs 69.127 billion.

This also reflects badly on the performance of Board of Directors of PIA. In just nine months of 2011, liabilities of the corporation exceeded the worth of its assets by Rs83.619 billion compared to Rs59.096 billion on Dec 31, 2010.

It merits mention here that PIA had secured long-term financing from foreign and local banks to the tune of Rs34.908 billion during the first nine months of 2011 by way of unconditional and irrevocable GOP guarantees besides pledging that all present and future receivables of the corporation would be generated through sales of tickets and cargo in UK and Saudi Arabia.

When contacted, PIA spokesman Danyal Gillani expressed his ignorance about the names of candidates who were interviewed for the post of CEO.