Pakistan Airline Pilots’ Association (PALPA) general secretary Captain Sohail Ahmed, while criticising the new aviation policy, has said that it suggests the selling of Pakistani airports, domestic routes and travelers to foreign carriers and investors, laying the foundation for the destruction of the domestic aviation industry.

In a communiqué to private airlines’ management in Pakistan, PALPA general secretary sought their support against destructive aviation policy and discriminatory practices meted out to private airlines while doling out favors to Middle Eastern airlines which have started flying to Multan, Sialkot and Quetta, reducing local airlines’ domestic business. “One of the key factors that affected the Pakistani airline sector is opening more and more gateways and encouraging foreign airlines to fly direct to our local hubs besides allowing them indiscriminate access in Pakistan,” said general secretary PALPA, which no other country in the world offers to foreign airlines to protect their own industry.

And now, he added, the new aviation policy has suggested sale of Pakistani airports to foreign investors, and with this we are now laying the foundation for the destruction of the domestic sector as well. “Pakistan loses foreign exchange as foreign airlines remit their profits. With the event of the airports owned and managed by foreign investors, the national exchequer will suffer further losses,’ reasoned the secretary.

Capt Sohail said that as Pakistani airlines keep on losing their market share to the foreign airlines, their ability to generate revenues will progressively decline, which will eventually force the Pakistani airlines to reduce fleet size and squeeze the airline-related infrastructure, thus causing huge layoffs across the country.

“Indiscriminate open sky policy is therefore, posing serious threats to Pakistani jobs, overall economy leakages of foreign exchange of the country and of course, to the long-term viability and survival of the airline industry of Pakistan,” he added.

It is no hidden fact, he added, that the competent authorities of Pakistan exercised their discretionary powers in grant of flights to foreign airlines from all airports in Pakistan by ignoring the sacrosanct clause of ‘reciprocity’ and appointed non-professional management on political considerations without impunity.

“Unfortunately, the new policy also lacks specific targets and time frames. For example, it has been realized that organization of PCAA has conflicting roles and responsibilities but the report does not provide any guideline for the development of a better structure and role of PCAA,’ said the general secretary PALPA.

PIA instead of concentrating on improvement of services, like working in-flight entertainment equipment, seats provisions of pillows blankets etc, the authorities have pitched PIA and other local airlines against the cash rich Middle Eastern airlines. It is also strange that instead of buying parts for our own aircraft on the pretext of shortage of funds PIA management has adequate funds to bring in rented aircraft from foreign airlines.

Plan to upgrade infrastructure to ensure safe, uninterrupted flight operations

Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has embarked upon a plan to uplift air navigation infrastructure and airports for safe and efficient operations of aircraft in pursuant of the New Aviation Policy 2015. It also involves the upgradation of Instrument Landing System to CAT-IIIB at Allama Iqbal International Airport (AIIAP) Lahore.

PCAA spokesperson said that the upgradation will address the long outstanding issue regarding disruption of flights at Lahore during intense fog and smog conditions, ensuring safe & uninterrupted flight operations.

This state of the art ILS CAT-IIIB system is supplemented by Advanced Airfield Lighting System and Surface Movement Radar. Combination of these systems will facilitate precision approach and landing guidance to the aircraft during inclement weather conditions. Earlier, landing at Lahore was not possible below 350 meters visibility, but now with the help of ILS CAT-IIIB, landing would be possible even up to 50 meters visibility.

ILS Cat-III B upgrade project comprises installation of various components. Significant work on the project which includes upgrade of ILS to CAT-IIIB, installation of associated airfield lighting system on primary runway and one of the linked taxiways will be complete by December 1, 2015.

Spokesperson said that the project also entails installation of Surface Movement Guidance Control System (SMGCS)/Surface Movement Radar (SMR), Airfield Lighting System (AFL) on other linked taxiways, Advanced Visual Docking Guidance System (AVDGS) and training of CAA personnel to facilitate safe and secure movement of aircraft on ground till docking at the Avio Bridge under poor visibility conditions.

AIIAP Lahore will join the list of very few top rated airports in the world that have the capability to handle the aircraft operations in poor visibility conditions. In this region, Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore would be the second airport after Indra Ghandi International Airport, Delhi to have this state of the art facility.

The domestic and international passengers traveling to and from AIIAP Lahore would benefit greatly in terms of facilitation and convenience, whereas airlines would gain in terms of huge fuel savings, uninterrupted and safe operations.