Articles of the year 2010

Feudal Fliers
Published on February 27th, 2010

London bound flight's pilot Hamid Gardezi, who also happens to be director airport service in CAA and on deputation in PIA, took a friend Syed Salim Zaidi along with him on the flight. The passenger was on the aircraft without a boarding pass….The MD PIA was on the same cha-nnel on a talk show and said that passengers do manage to get a place on a flight every now and then in an emergency situation.

This is yet another example of the PPP system of governance in which rules are meant to be broken or by passed in favour of some chosen few.

Nevertheless, the situation in the above scenario is far more serious than the facts would appear to indicate. The rules governing the behaviour of all airlines have evolved over the years, and are governed by the International Air Transport As-sociation (IATA) of which PIA is a signatory. Headquartered in Canada its rules are obeyed even by the Non IATA airlines. So important are the overall responsibilities of the IATA network.

PIA officials realised some years back, when they failed to upgrade some of their aircraft equipment, that almost 75 per-cent of PIA's aircrafts were banned from flying into the United States, and even the European Union, airports. This meant huge losses to the national carrier, but no one was punished for such a huge blunder. This was one instance where the observance of rules was enforced, and it cost PIA a fortune in loss of revenues - not to mention the negative effect on the market of the airline. While the MD PIA chose to remark on a private TV channel nonchalantly that these things do happen, he perhaps did not realise that these are violation of very strict IATA laws, and PIA could face very harsh penalties. Notwithstanding the questions that could be raised by passenger groups.

After 9/11, aviation security has been tightened worldwide, and we are confident that such a violation should mean the grou-nding of that pilot and his job, as a CAA officer would also be in serious jeopardy. These are a few of the penalties that could apply - immediately.

Moreover, running an airline is not on a feudal whim, because of a friend of a friend! Pakistan is part of an international community and must obey the rules. Or the international community could force even more hardship on our aircraft, and worse still on our passengers. How could the MD himself condone such an act, on TV, and compound the error further by admitting that it has happened in the past. Any MD, of any other airline, would have been escorted off the plane and to jail which are just a few of the options that he would immediately face. In the Aviation Industry, the strict observance on all matters of security will raise concerns about the Pakistani authorities, and their ability to police their own jurisdiction. This is a very severe flaw in our managerial competence not the least being the ability to circumvent the rules.

This feudal methodology must be eliminated, and strict observance of all rules should be implemented. This could be the cause for a suo moto action by a judge of the Sindh High Court with immediate notices to the persons named. In this instance it could trigger many violations, and not the least could be an investigation on the efficacy of the Civil Aviation operations in Pakistan. It could also invite a stricter check on the Pakistani aircraft which would add to the misery of the Pakistani traveller.

For a start, the 'Friend of a Friend' policy should be abolished before it costs our national carrier a breakdown in discipline which surfaced on a stopover in Bahrain when a pilot was thrashed by a flight steward over an altercation between the two. It was only by chance that the matter was not reported to the Bahrain authorities otherwise the Bahrain Civil Aviation would have immediately arrested the two officers.

In aviation matters and aircraft, there is zero toleration of any infringement, so our security must be tightened considerably, not the least by the higher ups. Who must learn to set a good example. Flying is a safe business so we hope that our airline managers keep our skies safe and simply obey the rules.