Gone are the days when Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was one of the few things we could talk about with heads held high, we felt pride not at the condition of age-old planes or technology, not at the in-flight entertainment system or even the food. Rather, this pride was for the people working in PIA – the quality and finesse of the pilots, the expertise and competence of the technical staff and engineers, the knowledge and capability of the cabin crew, and not to forget their grace and beauty.
The Glorious Past
There were times when the image of National flag carrier was taken very seriously, there used to be surprise checks in the odd hours of night or early morning. Not only the aircraft were thoroughly inspected but also the cleanliness of staff’s uniform and the condition of the check-in counters.
PIA made it compulsory for its staff to look presentable and be properly dressed, as each one of them was an ‘ambassador’ of Pakistan.
A fact you will always revere that it was PIA who helped set-up a new airline for a country known as the United Arab Emirates(UAE) in the mid 1980s, it was through PIA’s relentless efforts that Emirates Airlines was born, pilots and engineers from PIA trained and groomed the staff of this nascent Emirates airline, a time we still cherish and recall the pride of being a Pakistani.
It was fascinating to learn that in 1975, PIA selected its new uniforms through an open competition. The winning entry was designed by Sir Hardy Amies, the designer of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The very fact that designers like Sir Amies and Pierre Cardin considered it prestigious enough to attach their names with PIA is heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time.
There are numerous factors that put the airline on a falling track, among which were the escalating cost of aviation fuel, the deteriorating law and order situation, international competition, the huge salary bill and appointment of a series of incapable CEOs some of whom knew nothing about economics and dynamics of aviation industry, it’s bizarre to have chairman along with a managing directory both exercising their powers at the same time, each of whom believed he was the chief executive. All it did was double the expense, encourage rivalry and fuel intrigues.
The first Asian airline to fly a jet, and a gem of airliners is now a huge drag on state revenue purse.Once a role model for global airliners, it now breathes hard in the financial rot brought about by corruptive political inductions and continued over-staffing.
What’s currently going on in the national flag carrier is very unfortunate that after 28 managing directors most of whom were political appointees and didn’t have any guts about how to run an airline, PIA has become a financial black hole which has sucked up many billions.
With the decline in service and quality, PIA got trapped into endless scandals and losses, not just in dollar value but in goodwill and reputation. It’s hard to believe that the airline that was Asia’s first to acquire a jet plane in its fleet back in the 1960s, has fallen behind all its peers in the race to upgrade, update and improve its image.
Who would believe that the first airline ever to show in-flight movies on international routes and to use the first computer ever in Pakistan, would someday lose its customer base because people would perceive it as archaic and out-dated.