Articles of the year 2005

Open Skies At Last
Published on July 30th, 2005

The Secretary of Defense is to be congratulated on the declaration of the new Aviation Policy in allowing our Private Airlines to go international. This is a very brave decision, and must have been incredibly difficult, with the pressures being exerted by PIA in the opposite direction. For too long has PIA managed to dictate its own policies through the Ministry of Defense, much to the detriment of the other Airlines, and making flying more expensive for the Passenger. The protectionist policy adopted by PIA has outgrown its usefulness, and whatever benefits PIA may have derived in the past were frittered away by bad management of resources and routes.

The glories of the 60's with hotels like Midway House and Speedbird House at Karachi Airport, were relegated to a dim and distant past. To see the same hotels shuttered up today is sorrowful, and to see the number of foreign Airlines NOT coming to Karachi is indeed such a pity, for in having a major Airport as an international hub and then seeing the airlines gradually drifting away was sad indeed. When the author asked head of CAA as to why the Landing charges were 2 ½ times the rates of Dubai I was told quite categorically, " We don't want them here, they are only after our passengers, which are PIA's anyway!" And so we have a 400 Million $ airport with no European carriers, and the so-called PIA passengers are flying all other carriers—but PIA! The European carriers can be seen in Dubai mounting Daily flights from and to Dubai. PIA meanwhile has only three flights a week to London, from Karachi. A far cry indeed from the daily to UK.!

The tussle between PIA and GULFAIR in 1985 is a case in point. The management of Gulf Air had approached even the late Gen. Ziaul Haq for traffic rights to Islamabad and Lahore, from Gulf points. When PIA and the Defense Ministry refused, Gulfair threatened to stop PIA from flying to any point in the Gulf. Before this embargo could be enforced the Late Shaikh Rashid Maktoum offered PIA an unlimited number of flights to and through Dubai. He had in turn a small request. Would PIA help him start a small airline, to which PIA readily agreed, and an Airbus with a PIA crew was rushed into service with the Emirates livery, -----and so Emirates was born, midwifed by PIA, growing by leaps and bounds, till it now ranks amongst the giants of international aviation. Whereas PIA strangled by its own myopia and the bureaucrats strangle hold, continued to stagnate till its management flaws surmounted the qualities of the original product. Eventually PIA arrived at its own mediocre place in the Aviation Market, giving up the bright dream of becoming an Aviation leader.

We may now see a new era in Aviation in Pakistan. The Pakistani carriers will have to bring their product and price in line with the other international carriers on the same routes. They will not be able to cancel flights because there were'nt enough passengers. Also we have quite a number like Hajvairy, Safe Air, Bhoja Air, that seem to have just folded, leaving large CAA and fuel bills to be paid. This may not be possible on International routes, as the economic, and operational constraints will be much tougher. Will a delayed or cancelled not incur the wrath of Immigration authorities at other airports, officers who will not be as understanding as their Pakistani counterparts? It remains to be seen whether the new entrants can survive in the cutthroat world of international aviation. However the operators have obviously done their homework, and we wish them well, one can only hope that within a few months perhaps just perhaps we may get a decent non-stop flight to London. The ethnic market has a very strong loyalty factor, and the expatriate would like to be amongst his own from the minute he boards. This will be large contributory factor towards the success of the Carrier.