LAHORE - PIA Chairman Lt Gen (r) Yasin Malik is considering to make changes in PIA, which for past five years has been crippled by corruption and incompetence, which has hiked total accumulated losses of the airline from Rs 42 billion in 2008 to over Rs 150 billion as of December, 2012, said sources in the airline on Wednesday.

It merits mentioning here that PIA’s employee to aircraft ratio is also highest in the whole aviation industry. A senior officer of PIA, which has highly paid cadre of pilots, engineers, GMs etc., said that there is dire need of surgical cleansing in PIA, where pilferage, kickbacks and the nexus of marketing and procurement with travel agents and suppliers has driven it to bankruptcy.

He said that almost half the fleet including brand new B777 and ATR is grounded for lack of spares. There has been no accountability for those responsible for imposition of a partial ban by EU on PIA in 2006-2007, which followed appointment of a single supplier of technical spares located in UK, instead of a choice of vendors located along its routes. He said that one of the major sources of corruption was procurement of spares. In 2011, PIA again appointed a sole supplier in Dubai and this led to grounding of half of its fleet, yet nobody has been punished or held accountable. No change for the better can occur and no purpose will be served by Rs 100 billion fresh bailout plan, unless PIA is surgically cleansed of the corrupt mafia within its executive corridors and Board of Directors.

Another senior aviation expert, when contacted, was of the view that what PIA needs is an honest team of professionals who should have powers of hiring and firing, without any intervention of MOD or politicians, who should restore it to a service-oriented airline, instead of an organization burdened with incompetent and semi-literate mediocrity captive to blackmailing of its unions.

Insiders within PIA stated that changes being considered are mere cosmetic in nature and these won’t take PIA out of the woods. In spite of vast potential of a loyal ethnic expat community, the corruption riddled management, captive to their conflicts of interest, have forced PIA’s assured clients to seek alternative options, by offering an unreliable schedule, with international stations being opened, and when traffic capacity was developed, the same were abruptly closed. The strange coincidence is that this vacuum was immediately filled by Emirates or Ethihad as if by design. PIA’s present fleet is grossly underutilized. Instead of opening new routes as per Business Plan, the airline operation has contracted. The past 5 years have seen PIA’s sole remaining asset, its routes, being literally offered on a plate for peanuts to various airlines like Turk Hawa Yolari etc. While PIA lost its sole asset namely routes along with their assured ethnic Pakistani expat traffic to THY, the sole beneficiaries were Salim Mandviwala, who got the GSA and former MDs Aijaz Haroon and Yusafzai. In 2003 PIA submitted a 10-year Business Plan to EXIM bank along with sovereign guarantees for commercial feasibility of inducting expensive B777 to replace ageing fleet of B747 into the fleet, followed by induction of ATR to replace F-27. In 2013, instead of PIA being in a profit and clearing all its debts and lease installments with additional revenues, the airline is technically insolvent and meeting its day to day expenses on dole-outs by Federal Government or bank loans obtained on sovereign guarantees. In past five years key executives who were responsible for failure of 2003 Business Plan were rehired as consultants.

One such former executive was Haider Jalal, who faced several allegations of financial indiscipline during his tenure as Director Marketing and DMD PIA. It was during his tenure that PIA closed its profitable Gulberg Booking Office in Lahore to facilitate the travel agency owned by his family member. A glimpse of the nature of abuse is the rehiring on contract of retired PIA pilots and flight engineers, although the existing monthly utilization is less than 39 hours per month, while they are paid for 70 hours. The present MD has his three sons recruited as pilots.

When contacted spokesman of PIA, Tajwar said that no doubt chairman PIA was in Karachi for last few days but no change was announced in black and white. He said that there were rumors of changes based on the wishes of certain officers of PIA who wish to become MD PIA. He said after the caretakers take charge, any change would be natural also, but at the same time he said, “I see no such big change”.