ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan has indigenous expertise and talent to uplift the sinking ship of its commercial aviation sector by utilising skilled workforce and energetic human resource, a noted aviation expert believed.

“It is an irony that Pakistan’s aviation professionals have established and turned around few of the globally best airlines like Emirates, Air Malta, Singapore Airlines and ERAL while Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is at the verge of collapse,” said Shakil Aftab Kashmirwala, former chief executive officer (CEO) ERAL, a national airline of Eritrea, in an interaction with the journalists here on Monday. He was sharing views on the rapidly declining professional standards at the PIA in the wake of the worst financial crisis the state-run airline is trapped in.

Kashmirwala, who played key role in ERAL’s restructuring, does not buy the argument that the PIA fleet is too old to remain operational and needs to be replaced with new aircraft. “This lacks substance. As CEO of a major airline, I had a role in making airworthy the wide body aircrafts that were as many as 25 years old and those aircrafts met the airworthiness standards set up by European Aviation Safety Agency and Federal Aviation Administration,” he claimed.

According to him, all PIA needs is “hands-on operations as well as efficient, result oriented and competent professionals appointed at all positions as per their level of competency to handle the affairs.”

He said that administrative and managerial sides in the commercial aviation sector are equally important as engineering that involves aircraft maintenance. “Maintaining aircraft in best condition is one aspect of ensuring better performance of an airline. But this is not enough. There are several other areas that have to be taken care of. Marketing, in-flight services, pre and post flight operations, ground handling, on-field training, engineering & maintenance as well as the sound financial management-everything counts in the smooth and effective running of an airline,” he said.

The expert suggested to the PIA management to develop long-term traffic forecast for existing and new destinations. “You cannot remain complacent if the going is good; you need to be on your toes all the time abandoning the routes showing constant passenger decline and finding destinations where better opportunities exists” he said adding that many globally renowned airlines stopped flying on routes that caused revenue losses to the airlines. For this, he said, PIA also needs to work closely with CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to sign more bilateral aviation safety agreements (BASA) to avoid revenue losses.

Pointing to PIA’s decreasing flight operations, Kashmirwala said, the global  passengers’ traffic was increasing manifolds with every passing year while the PIA’s passenger load factor was on a decline. “The private domestic airlines of our country are adding new destinations and leasing new aircraft from their own resources while PIA looks for government bailout even for its routine operations,” he said referring to the financial ‘injection’ of Rs50 billion pumped into the airliner earlier this year. Elaborating in technical terms, the aviation expert suggested, the decisions taken by the management should curtail fix and variable costs without jeopardising the operations and safety. “Introduction of a fuel policy is a must as fuel is an important cost of all flying operations. The current fuel, maintenance and other contracts needs to be revised downwards. Plus, coordination is the key to success of an airliner. Currently, different departments of the airlines operate independent of each other resulting in loss of efficiency and duplication of costs, which makes it absolutely essential to ensure coordination among all departments.”