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Op-ed: why is there a sudden increase in International air carrier operations in Pakistan

"Menzies Aviation has obtained 51% stake in Royal Airport Services. I see it as not a foreign investment, its foreign reserves earned inside Pakistan flowing out to a foreign company," writes author.

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Virgin Atlantic has started operations in Pakistan courtesy to the European Union ban on PIA flights though much cheered in power corridors as if they have enticed the foreign airline. The ban was imposed for a reason, inter alia; no follow up on audit observations and compliance of safety management systems by PIA officials. Many are ignorant (even PIA Management also) of the fact that quality system auditors hired from the market around 15 years back who were all qualified auditors before joining PIA and gaining subsequent airline audit systems experience made them super beneficial for the company, but unfortunately, they were transferred out of quality/safety management Department, as they reached the ceiling of their promotions.

For more career progression they carved out a way to get themselves transferred to other departments. If the career plans of these thorough professionals were available in their own department they would have never left the safety/quality department of PIA. One Athar Dy. GM Audit joined as GM HR Management, Nawab Khattak. GM Audit joined catering/security while Wahid Dy. GM Audit joined Airport Hotel a couple of years back leaving the safety/quality department to less experienced staff. Thanks to docile HR Management who have almost ended the (BPR) Business Process Re-engineering (Industrial Engineering Section) of the airline, which was supposed to carry out work, time study to facilitate companies’ internal and external procedures.

And now world-renowned ground handler Menzies Aviation has obtained 51% stake in Royal Airport Services. I see it as not a foreign investment, its foreign reserves earned inside Pakistan flowing out to a foreign company.

Disproportionate Favours to Gulf Carriers

On the other hand, as per Open Sky Policy, people enjoy superior services of foreign airlines hence, PIA despite shouldering 70% of domestic passengers, left to contend with a reduced share of 30% of international passengers until recently before the ban while foreign carriers gained 70% market share (thanks to the generosity of those in power for dis-proportionately enhancing frequency of gulf carriers).

Take the example of Fly Dubai (Emirates low-cost wing) did avail sharp increase in frequency and passengers from 159,083 number of passengers embarked/disembarked in the year 2012 to 877,263 in the year 2017 as per Civil Aviation of Pakistan statistics, while RAS (owned by Mr. Shujaat Azeem) are also General Sales Agent for Fly Dubai in Pakistan.

Read more: PM Imran Khan inaugurates Pakistan’s third private airline ‘AirSial’

Airport Handling Business Awarded To Other Than PIA 

Coming to ground services, PIA provides airport handling service at all airports of Pakistan either Trunk Route airports, Primary Routes, Secondary Routes or Socio-Economic and Socio-Political Routes. While these private companies like RAS, Dnata and Shaheen Airport Service only operate at 8 lucrative airports of Pakistan leaving all non-lucrative airports/routes to PIA that include: 

  1. Trunk Routes: Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta. 
  2. Primary Routes:Multan, Faisalabad, Sukkur, Sialkot, D.G. Khan, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur and Nawabshah. 
  3. Secondary Routes:Skardu, Mohenjo-daro, Zhob, Saidu Sharif, Dalbadin, Bannu, Parachinar, Sehwan Sharif, D.I. Khan, Hyderabad, Ormara, Khuzdar, Rawalakot, Muzaffarabad, Chitral, Gilgit, Panjgur, Gwadar, Turbat, Jiwani, Pasni, Jacobabad and Mirpur Khas. 
  4. Socio-Economic and Socio-Political Routes(where political integration is the prime objective) are a subset of the Secondary routes and include: Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur, Khuzadar, Dalbandin, Zhob, Rawalakot, Skardu, Chitral, Gilgit, Bannu, Parachinar and Muzaffarabad.

For more career progression they carved out a way to get themselves transferred to other departments. If the career plans of these thorough professionals were available in their own department they would have never left the safety/quality department of PIA.

Hard luck to PIA and good luck to others including those who remained at the helms of Aviation affairs of the country, the Airport Handling Services business in Pakistan that was shared by three players Gerryys Gnata, Shaheen Airport Services and PIA, a fourth company belonging to Mr. Shujaat Azeem, who later became Advisor to PM on Aviation, was approved with the name of Royal Airport Services (RAS) further diluting PIA revenues at the ground also after in the air. Pity on PIA, the national Flag Carrier.

RAS has earned US$ 20 Million in the year 2019 and all this has less to do with business acumen and more to do with influence and ranks in the government. And now world-renowned ground handler Menzies Aviation has obtained 51% stake in Royal Airport Services. I see it as not a foreign investment, its foreign reserves earned inside Pakistan flowing out to a foreign company.

Read more: PIA slashes salaries by 50%

PIA Deserves All Airport Handling Business of Pakistan

The Airport Handling business of whole of Pakistani airports should go to PIA through a law/Presidential Ordinance declaring PIA the sole airport handler across Pakistan in line with Dnata at Dubai and Afghan Ariana in Afghanistan to make up for losses it makes firstly through the exaggerated frequency of flights rights given to foreign airlines leaving PIA to 30% of foreign business secondly PIA carrying 70% of low yield domestic traffic and thirdly only PIA provides ground services at all Pakistani airports, unlike its ground competitors who operate only at 8 lucrative airports.

Mushtaq Jumma is an Ex-Airliner and Business Consultant. The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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