Friday, November 30, 2007

PIA Is A Good Airline. Really, It Is

The Maliks, proprietors and editors of the rather dreadful Pakistan Observer, are, I presume, angling for free tickets from Pakistan International Airlines, the moribund state-owned airline, with this rather fawning editorial—aptly titled “PIA On Path to Glory”—which I produce in full below:
THE European Commission on Wednesday lifted all restrictions on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flying in the 27-nation bloc. In March this year, the Commission banned almost two-thirds of the PIA fleet amid safety fears concerning the aging airplanes.

The lifting of the ban within eight months of its imposition is clear manifestation of the fact that PIA was on its course to regain the lost glory. There is no denying the fact that the restriction not only was one of the major source of losses but also damaged PIA’s reputation among travellers. It is, therefore, gratifying that the national airliner moved quickly to address the EU concerns and refurbished and upgraded its fleet of Boeing 747s and Airbus A-310s as a result of which it is now able to fly its aircraft to some of the lucrative routes. The credit for this goes to the PIA top management that carried out necessary upgradation on the one hand and held intensive negotiations with the quarters concerned on the other hand. We believe that phasing out of the older aircraft, improvement and renovation of the existing ones and induction of the latest versions should have been a regular feature. This is one of the minimum requirements for remaining competitive in the market. However, this is not the end and we hope that the leadership of the PIA would embark upon a comprehensive programme to increase efficiency of the airliner to the satisfaction of its customers. There is need to improve quality of the service, switching over to corporate culture and to pursue a dynamic marketing strategy to make PIA a profitable organization.
This editorial is filled with half-truths, distortions, fantasies, and inanities. This is par for the course for The Pakistan Observer, whose editorial board, it seems, consists of star struck teenagers, whose writing talent—or the lack thereof—wouldn’t even get them published in a fourth-rate high school newspaper. Their editorials are, to put it mildly, that putrid.

First, the European Commission fear wasn’t about aging airplanes, but PIA’s shoddy maintenance of said planes. Even PIA’s top-of-the-line 777s was plagued with problems.

Second, PIA’s reputation among travelers was lost well before the European Commission’s decision to ban the airline. Read the complaints that are published on a regular basis in English-language dailies, describing, in excruciating detail, this and that ordeal about flying PIA, whether it be domestically or internationally. Most Pakistanis, if they can, readily choose to fly with high-quality international airlines like Emirates rather than PIA. Those who, like hapless government bureaucrats, stay with PIA only do so because they have no choice.

Lastly, the only right thing (a rarity, I know) this editorial has said is that PIA needs to switch to a more corporate clime, which can only be achieved two ways: privatization, or a professional management structure. Both options require the government to be completely hands-off. Given the government inclination to interfere, I doubt we will be seeing this anytime soon.

In the meantime, foreign airlines are making a killing in Pakistan, while PIA flounders.

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