The coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted several businesses across the globe, but very few have been as hard hit as the aviation industry. The Pakistan International Airlines is no exception. Reportedly, its losses can reach Rs. 6.3bn a month if the situation persists. With rising cases and no end to the pandemic in sight as far as Pakistan is concerned, there is little cause for optimism for the PIA management. It is one of the most vulnerable airlines worldwide expected to go bankrupt if international travel is not restored. But all this should not distract from the fact that PIA has been performing poorly for quite some time now.

Its glory days are far behind it, and there is little benefit in reminiscing about the 60s. Be it military or civilian heads, none have been able to accomplish the unenviable task of turning things around at the PIA. Nepotism, overstaffing, unhelpful interference from other institutions, and a lack of vision, accountability or professional management has meant that people have lost faith in the national flag carrier. A disproportionate number of safety incidents and crashes as well frequent time delays and poor services have not only scared customers away, but also left PIA in no position to compete with its competitors such as Emirates or Etihad Airways.

While there was a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the positive development of reviving a direct route to the US, the pandemic put all of that to a stop. And even if it had begun, it is hard to see how that alone would have cured the many ills that plague the service. The government should consider options of public-private partnership or privatisation and deploy its limited resources elsewhere instead of burning cash to no end. Previous experiences have shown that steps which may include bringing in professional management and giving it a free hand as shedding deadweight and attempts at reform have proven fruitless.