ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa) yesterday called off the weeklong boycott of operating PIA flights for two days after Senator Talha Mahmood, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat, persuaded its president to join talks with the PIA management to resolve the issues by Friday. “I had to take notice of the Palpa strike. The issues are not of the nature which cannot be resolved,” Talha Mahmood told media persons after chairing a crucial meeting of the committee, which was attended by the civil aviation secretary, PIA Chairman Nasser Jaffer and Palpa President Capt Amir Hashmi.

Senator Talha said PIA and Palpa would discuss the issues under the leadership of the Civil Aviation secretary. Palpa Chairman Amir Hashmi announced to end the strike after attending the meeting called by the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat chairman and attended by PIA and all other relevant departments. After a brief round of talks, Palpa announced to end the strike for two days while the aviation secretary was tasked to resolve all the outstanding issues between the pilots’ body and the national flag carrier. The committee will again meet with both the parties on Friday.

Hashmi, while announcing to call off the strike for two days, hoped the issues would be resolved within the period. PIA Chairman Nasser Jaffer also expressed satisfaction over the development in his brief talk with media persons after the meeting. A large number of passengers had been facing hardship for last one week as many scheduled PIA flights were cancelled and delayed on account of the strike. The PIA blamed the pilots’ association for cancellation and delay of flights, saying they were “blackmailing” the management for personal gains. PIA Chairman Nasser Jaffer unveiled plan B on Tuesday under which new pilots were to be inducted on contract basis while Pakistan Navy’s aviators were also called in for assistance.

The Palpa president claimed, “Their actions were not a strike, rather the pilots had opted to go by the book.” He further claimed neither the PIA management nor PM’s Adviser on Aviation Shujaat Azeem seemed interested in resolving the issues. On the other hand, the PIA chairman told a media briefing on Tuesday that Palpa was offered a solution, whereby a team consisting of four senior PIA pilots, four Palpa representatives and two observers from the management was being constituted. This team was to formulate a future course of action to resolve all the issues between the PIA management and Palpa.

Unfortunately, he said, Palpa refused to join the team and insisted that their demands be met forthwith. He said this inflexibility was inconveniencing passengers and inflicting unnecessary financial losses on the national flag carrier. The tiff between the Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Airlines Pilots’ Association (Palpa) caused miseries for domestic and international passengers, besides forcing them to look towards other airlines as the national flag carrier faced delay in flights.

Since the start of dispute between PIA and Palpa, nearly 120 flights were cancelled while the national airlines faced loss of millions of rupees on account of flights cancellation and accommodation of passengers in hotels. According to sources, about four flights of PIA – Lahore-Karachi (PK-315), Sukkur-Karachi (PK-541), Madina-Karachi (PK-747) and Abu Dhabi-Lahore (PK-268) – were delayed, creating many problems for the passengers. Owing to the weeklong strike, the passengers were forced to travel in the other airlines which increased their fare rates. Talking to The Nation, a PIA spokesperson said delay in the flights is a routine matter and it can happen for various reasons. The administration always accommodates passengers in case of any inconvenience, he said, adding the PIA operation is going quite smoothly.

To a query about the loss of millions of rupees inflicted on PIA and decline in the purchase of the national flag carrier tickets, the spokesperson refused to comment upon the matter and added the PIA administration would soon issue a press release in this regard. Moreover, a PIA official, on condition of anonymity, revealed two pilots, Captain Tariq Alam and Captain Khurram Butt, had resigned from their slot in protest against what the PIA terms the violation of agreement by the pilots. He further disclosed about 120 flights, international and domestic, had been cancelled since October 1, causing loss of around Rs 420 million to the PIA.