Last week, the PK-712 from New York JFK to Lahore via Manchester took off for the final time. PIA has been operating flights to the US since the 1960s.
Given the presence of Pakistani diaspora in the eastern coast of the US, PIA should be flying full and expanding to other destinations as well. Why would the PIA want to close a profitable route?
The reasons are nothing to do with the Lahore-JFK route; rather, the governance problems within the PIA and the controversies around have compounded the ground operations. Consider the following cases in 2017 alone: in October, the PIA had decided to “sell off” a “missing” Airbus! In May, British authorities found drugs on an Islamabad-London flight. In April, a pilot in another Islamabad-London flight handed over the cockpit to a trainee to take a nap in the passenger’s cabin. A Karachi-Madina flight in February, disregarding all norms of passenger safety, carried seven extra passengers “standing” during the flight.
Even the last flight from JFK, instead of leaving a nostalgic memory behind, left two coffins behind, as it took off.
Clearly, there is a serious governance issue within. To be fair to the PIA management, rest of South Asia, except Sri Lanka do have a problem in running their national carrier. Air India, Nepal Airlines and the Biman have their own problems; but the PIA leads the pack in South Asia and flies higher with the problems and controversies.
Given the fact that different Airlines from the Middle East are providing an attractive service, PIA should have realised the challenge much ahead. Emirates, Qatar and Etihad are much ahead not only with the services in the air, but also on the ground with an attractive airport in Dubai and Doha. Many in Pakistan would prefer to fly via Dubai and Doha for the above two reasons – good service in the air, and a great airport in the ground.
To revive the PIA, it would need a huge support from the government. Successive governments played a role in playing with the governance structure of the PIA. Both the PML-N and PPP should also take the blame for PIA’s turbulence in the air and in the ground.