A trip down memory lane will reveal the glorious history of the PIA with its efficient staff, quality food and frequent displays of punctuality. A lot has changed since then. PIA is now a ghost of the corporate entity that it once was, riddled with inefficiency, corruption and monthly losses amounting to around Rs 2.7 billion.

How this happened, or why other private airline companies like Shaheen and Air Blue continue to thrive, serving the same clientele, in the same corporate climate, is not as cryptic a mystery as people would believe, but is easily answered by one word; incentive. Employees at PIA do not feel the need to do their jobs, because they know their interests are protected by an uninterested management and a powerful union.

PIA’s biggest problem is overstaffing, with a reported employee-to-aircraft ratio standing at 571, over triple the average of 120 across the world. Just what these extra employees do when PIA is canceling flights and not even able to afford fuel is a question that needs answering. Added to that, the PIA decided at the end of last year, to increase the salaries of all of their employees which would increase the losses by another Rs 3 billion annually. So not only are employees in PIA paid for doing nothing, they are also given increments based, apparently, on who does nothing best.

On top of all that, the state with its attempts at privatization is facing fierce opposition over its decision, because 'stakeholders' within PIA feel that this will only exacerbate the crisis. With the plan to inject Rs 16 billion in the corporation underway, the government is attempting to make the PIA look slightly less ravaged, so that they will not have to resort to paying investors to take it off their hands, instead of being able to sell it.

The 'stakeholders' vehemently opposing the notion, are blaming the government for turning PIA into the corrupt and inefficient mess, while accepting no part of the blame. The government needs a management for PIA that will downsize, cut frayed ends, and try to make PIA stand on its feet again. The government and PIA stakeholders, ironically on the same page about the ills that plague the national flag carrier, reach entirely opposing solutions about how to cure them.

Both are attempting to save face with mounting pressures to fix things, but let’s hope that if any private enterprise gains control of PIA, it locks the doors of its meeting room to both the members of the government and previous employees of the airline.