LAHORE -  The PIA top management is unmoved over a scam worth millions of rupees concerning issuance of tickets on nil-fare basis, the documents available with The Nation revealed.

The PIA Lahore district manager and ticket sales manager pointed out the scam and wrote to the general manager marketing, DGM pricing and many other senior officers concerned on November 10 this month, but despite repeated emails, the top management remained unmoved.

An email sent to the PIA headquarters by the Lahore district manager said, “It is suggested that all efforts be made to guard PIA interest and avoid financial loss at the earliest as passengers have to travel tonight on the nil-fare basis tickets. If PIA claims the amount against Royal Brunei Airline documents, what should PIA do to the tickets issued on such fare by South African travel agent? I have deputed two PIA staffers to meet these passengers at the Lahore airport on departure to probe facts of this transaction.”

The mail further stated, “Almighty Allah knows better since when this practice is being carried out.”

Country Manager Siraj A Kazi in his email said, “This is indeed a very serious issue and may spread like a wildfire. The RM team, in collaboration with SABRE, tackled misuse of system through switching UK IPs and channelising booking through SABRE RED from Khariain/Mirpur location very effectively. I believe this matter can also be sorted out with SABRE on priority. It is strange how a non-PK accredited managed to issue tickets. Our representative’s recent visit to the agent’s location found its premises locked and he is not available to receive phone calls as well. London station cannot take any sort of punitive action because the agent does not exist in the list of our agents within London sales territory”.

Ticket Sales Manager Baber Zaman from Lahore said in an email, “Reference our below email wherein we had highlighted a suspected fraud for issuance of tickets on nil-fare basis using manual mask. It is to be mentioned here that the fraud was highlighted on Nov 10, 2017, and several PNRs (reservation numbers) were shared with the head office for timely corrective action. However, it is to be noted with concern that the passengers booked under PNR QDRBENx3 have already traveled and no action has been taken, which has led to loss of revenue. Moreover, the 2nd PNR, URXGPV x5, is still alive and passengers are booked on PK/759 on November 23. Furthermore, while scanning flights, we have found several other PNRs (38 passengers) issued on nil-fare basis on today's flight. Needless to mention that such system glitches are causing losses worth millions of rupees to the national flag carrier and an immediate action is required to be taken. As per our understanding, these tickets should be cancelled because all of these are issued on nil-fare basis for today’s flight without any authority, bypassing the PIA reservation system. It is also suggested that instructions should be given to LHEKKPK and the vigilance department to intercept these passengers at the airport and probe the source of ticketing for thorough investigation as we suspect that these tickets are sold in Pakistan. This is not only causing revenue loss to the airline but our capacity on prime flights is also being consumed on nil-fare tickets. Besides, we are unable to utilise our capacity to meet the revenue target.”

Ticket Sales Manager Baber Zaman’s email added, “Furthermore, necessary instructions should be given to all reservation supervisors to scan all flights for the alleged fraud and cancel the PNRs accordingly. The agent has issued tickets IT-fare tickets on nil-fare basis with the help of manual mask. Total value of these tickets is PKR 536,000, issued on nil-fare basis. We have found these tickets on random flight check and the agent might have issued tickets for other flights as well”.

Some other PIA officers also pointed out through emails, highlighting a few other cases in the past when tickets were fraudulently issued through manual mask.

The issue came to light during usual flight checks that on Flight PK759 of November 23, 2017, there were about 32 tickets which were issued on zero-fare basis. It was alarming as agents are allowed to issue tickets only through auto pricing and no agent is allowed to issue tickets on manual pricing. The same was brought to the notice of the management at the head office. Detailed flight checks were ordered as a result of which 32 such fraudulent tickets on the same flight were traced. Later, the PIA management cancelled those tickets and the poor passengers who bought these fake tickets were left in the lurch.

Pakistan International Airlines Corporation, the national flag carrier, has suffered huge financial losses due to incompetent and non-professional management. They even do not know what the basic issue of this mega scam is. No one has so far reached any result as to how it happened and what pre-cautionary measures should be taken to avoid such incidents in future, which caused huge financial losses to the airlines. No professional team is available that could dig out the root cause of the recent incident wherein several tickets have been issued without charging any fare. These tickets have mostly been issued for Jeddah sector to Umra passengers on behalf of Air Brunei by an agent in Dublin for the travel originating from Pakistan. What a surprise that passengers from Pakistan travelling to Jeddah are buying inexpensive tickets from Dublin. Umra pilgrims who are coming to airports are being denied to board.

CEO Musharraf Rasool and Bilal Munir Sheikh have failed to pinpoint the responsibility or root cause of this incident. PIACL Chairman Irfan Elahi needs to take immediate action against the officers involved in the scam.

When contacted, spokesman for the national flag carrier said, PIA would never allow any passenger to travel on fake tickets and no incident of issuance of tickets issued on nil-fare basis took place in the PIA.