ISLAMABAD/LAHORE - Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Director General Hassan Baig had to face the music on Tuesday at the Skardu Airport for using a PIA plane for a private tour of Nanga Parbat.
The CAA Director General and his Personal Staff Officer (PSO) Aftab Gillani landed in trouble when some PIA passengers treated them with embarrassing sentences of ‘shame on you’ at the Skardu airport.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken notice of the incident and sought a report from PIA chief executive officer on the incident within 48 hours.
Details of the episode came to light through a video which went viral on the social media showing some passengers largely women who have been waiting for the PIA flight for four hours and consequently got late in reaching the connecting flight for Karachi.
The PIA flight from Islamabad to Skardu was delayed for four hours allegedly waiting for a few senior PIA officers and their families who were going to Skardu for a day out/lunch and to come back on the same flight giving it a three-hour stay at Skardu instead of one hour.
To the hard luck of DG Civil Aviation, a US-settled family was at Skardu airport who had already missed the connecting flight to Karachi. As a result, both the Civil Aviation Authority DG and the PSO had to face their outrage.
In the video a lady told DG Hassan Baig, “We are ordinary people and waiting for the PIA flight, and you are on the sojourn to have lunch at Skardu putting the poor passengers in trouble.”
On the other hand, when The Nation approached the PSO on his cell number, he did not attend the call and when his cell number was dialed through the exchange he slammed the phone saying it was a wrong number.
However, sources in Civil Aviation Authority and the PIA said that the PIA had conducted an air safari to Skardu and taken some senior officers and their families as well as the CAA DG and his PSO to Nanga Parbat.
The PIA flight on its return from Skardu to Islamabad was supposed to bring other passengers, but in the course, the flight on its way from Islamabad to Skardu got delayed for four hours.
It allegedly consumed more time on sightseeing while flying over Nanga Parbat before landing at the Skardu airport. Sources in CAA blamed the PIA for lack of coordination ostensibly to protect the DG and his PSO.
Talking to a private TV channel the CAA director general said he went for an air safari on the invitation of PIA CEO. He added that the national carrier told him that they are starting an air safari and thus wanted to invite him.
“I have nothing to do with the plane being taken for an air safari,” the DG CAA said. “None of my friends were on board the plane,” he told the TV channel. Baig added that he took notice of the complaints of the passengers at Skardu airport.
“There will be an inquiry against those responsible,” he asserted. The DG CAA said the PIA management is to blame for the delay in the flight to Skardu airport.
“I have written a letter to PIA seeking clarification on the matter,” Baig stated. He added, “It is our responsibility to regulate airlines and protect the rights of citizens. I told the passengers that I am with them in their protest.”
The third inaugural air safari flight of the current year has been operated without prior approval of the Board of Directors. This is not the first time PIA has become a laughing stock during the tenure of its current CEO Mr Cyan.
PIA was first to offer a unique service of its kind in the whole world with the name of Air Safari. The flight was discontinued later due to the grounding of the B-737 aircrafts and commercial and financial impediments.
PIACL has sustained a colossal loss of Rs412 billion out of which around Rs50 billion is of the era of President & CEO Mr Cyan.
Despite the heavy losses and acute shortage of aircrafts, the CEO organised a flight with a title safari for his close friends free of cost. It is astonishing to note that no feasibility study was conducted before starting such flights and acute shortage of aircraft on other routes.
Apart from all the above stated facts, no approval was sought from Board of Directors which is clear violation of the Policies and Rules of PIACL.
Common sense failed to understand that despite the Para(s) of Audit General Commercial & Evaluation on Irregular Appointment of Mr Cyan, Supreme Court decision/instructions to Federal Government for any action against him; he is not only continuing on his seats but also adding more in the colossal losses of PIACL by organizing such events.
Passengers in waiting said, “We waited several hours with no explanation except the flight has not left Islamabad.”
“We were in a hot waiting lounge, with no access to clean drinking water and no ladies restroom. It was reserved for the incoming guests and some ladies were actually told they could go use the men’s restroom,” the female passengers lamented.
They added, “Giglit-Baltistan senior minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) member Muhammad Akbar Taban and Faryal Gohar were among the guests on-board the plane for the special tour.”
The sources claimed, “A bathroom of the Skardu airport was assigned for guests and passengers who spent thousands of rupees on purchasing PIA tickets.”
When contacted, the PIA spokesman said, “PIA flight PK 451 and PK 452 Islamabad –Skardu –Islamabad of Monday 16th of July was delayed due to bad weather. The flight was delayed for 2 hours from its originating destination that was Islamabad to Skardu and consequently the return flight was delayed.”
The PIA spokesman also said that the PIA would work with concerned authorities to improve the facilities at Skardu airport which the passengers complained about.
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