In the miserable storey of the national flag carrier, OTHER ignominious chapter has opened. On Friday, it was discovered that in a $14m lease dispute, a PIA Boeing 777 had been confiscated at Kuala Lumpur airport on the orders of a Malaysian judge.
When the local authority demanded that the crew and passengers disembark, the aircraft was about to depart for Pakistan. It seems from the information available that this particular jet is one of two leased by PIA from a corporation headquartered in Dublin and is part of the portfolio sold by the latter to Peregrine Aviation Charlie Ltd, which is the defendant in the event.
PIA is barred from moving the two 777s until they have arrived or parked at Kuala Lumpur airport until the next hearing later this month, as per the temporary injunction. A flight tracking service registered the other jet impacted by the order as being in Karachi last month.
The decline of an airline that began with such a promise, which in many ways was a visionary and was instrumental in creating some of the most profitable airlines of today, is an unmitigated tragedy. Mismanagement, nepotism and political opportunism have been bound to take their toll for decades. Successive governments regarded PIA as a way of recognising supporters’ loyalty and cadres of the airline were filled with undeserving people.
Over time, PIA became a byword for mediocrity and dysfunction, a terrifying deterioration in a world where life can be expensive by the slightest error or oversight, and indeed it did. As a regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority must bear a substantial part of the responsibility for this. PIA had to be bailed out on a daily basis by the state, perennially deep in the red. It appears all the chickens have returned home to roost in the last year.
In May 2020, the PK-8303 crash near Karachi airport precipitated a sequence of tragic events. The crash, in which 97 out of 99 passengers on board died, was the result of many avoidable but lethal procedural mistakes, as the preliminary investigative report revealed. Then, almost immediately afterwards, the Minister of Aviation announced that ‘false’ was the CAA-issued licences of 260 Pakistani pilots operating in separate local and overseas airlines, an irresponsible assertion that pre-empted the conclusion of an ongoing investigation. A global furore was created by his comments.
Different international airline safety boards have banned PIA from working in many parts of the world; and Pakistani pilots working by foreign airlines have been suspended until their licence provenance has been verified. In the end, it turned out that the number of fake licences was much smaller, but the harm was done. The PIA is yet to recover from the debacle, and this latest disgrace has arisen now. What is the game plan of the airline administration? Has it really got one?