ISLAMABAD - Expressing grave concern over the current state of affairs in Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIAC), which is running in massive loss, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has stressed the need for transforming it into a profitable entity and reviving its halcyon days.

The premier expressed these views while having a briefing on the current position of PIAC and the efforts being made to transform it into a profitable entity here at Prime Minister’s House on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar, Special Assistant to PM Shujat Azeem, Secretary Aviation Muhammad Ali Gerdazi, DG Civil Aviation Air Marshal (Retd) Muhammad Yousaf and MD PIA Muhammad Junaid Yousaf attended the meeting. The PM was given a detailed presentation on the PIAC.

Prime Minister Sharif threw light on the past performance of PIA and also touched upon the halcyon days PIA enjoyed in the past. The PM said, “PIA was once our national pride and its efficiency and high quality service were its hallmark. It also set examples for other airlines. It is a cause for national embarrassment as its performance has deteriorated at breathtaking pace over the past decade. Now it is neither efficient nor profitable. It incurred losses around Rs 183 billion. The poor service delivery and over-employment in PIAC have been grave problems. Perhaps some efforts were made to turn it around in the past, but there has been no improvement in its efficiency or profitability. Pilferage also continues unabated in PIAC.”

The PM was briefed that steps had then been taken to overhaul the PIAC to restore its former position amongst the best airlines of the world. Now PIA has 24 operational aircrafts out of 34. The SOPs governing fuel management were revised to optimise fuel utilisation and it saved Rs 500 million per annum. The closure of loss-making routes has saved Rs 902 million per annum. Three hundred and thirty fake degree holders have been dismissed. A task force is instituted to identify more fake degree holders on fast track.

The prime minister was apprised of PIA operations including sales, marketing, engineering, cost cutting measures adopted and fleet planning.

The prime minister stressed on the need to make PIA a profitable entity and said that all efforts should be made in this direction; with enhanced customer services, on time flight arrivals and departures with safety being the foremost priority. He also directed PIA board members to hire experienced professionals required to run the airline on commercial basis ensuring profitability and the revival of the past glory of the national flag carrier. It was also decided that PIA board members would discuss airline matters relating to restructuring and revitalisation of PIA on a regular basis with the prime minister.

The PM was also informed that new SMS service was launched and activated to inform passengers for flight timings. All promotions will take place through mandatory NTS (national testing service) process. A dedicated task force is established at all major domestic stations to facilitate passengers. Two new routes to facilitate passengers have been introduced: Lahore-Quetta-Mashad - Quetta-Lahore and Multan-Jeddah-Multan and Multan-Madina-Multan. Six grounded aircrafts have been refurbished and put into operation. Airlines Integrated Management System (AIMS), costing $1.5 million, is now being put to optimal use, for bringing efficiency and accountability in flight operation. Pakistan International Airlines also got go ahead from the prime minister to acquire 05 additional Boeing 777 aircraft, to devise strategy to settle PIA legacy loans and empowerment of board of directors to run the airline on professional basis with special emphasis towards improvement of service standards.

The prime minister said that the government would encourage privatisation of the PIAC through competitive and transparent process without preemptive downsizing. The prime minister showed trust in the board of directors and lauded the competency of its members. He added that there would be no interference in the matters of board and the government would extend its full cooperation in streamlining the PIAC.

The PM was told that the national flag carrier was presently in the process of acquiring 11 A320 aircraft on lease with deliveries starting from June 2014.

With additional 05 Boeing 777 aircraft, the national flag carrier will be in a better position to offer enhanced services to its passengers, increase revenue, destinations, flight punctuality and reduced maintenance costs.