In the absence of Air Marshal Arshad Malik, PIA has become a rudderless ship cut adrift

With the Air Marshal made dysfunctional, the rudderless ship has been cut adrift, left to the mercy of the vultures.


The judiciary, over the last couple of years, has become synonymous to “shooting from the hip”. Putting the concern to address administrative issues on hold, they have taken alternate routes.

Least do they know that their decisions to stop the management from working or by removing the top brass are resulting in an operational impasse.

PIA has become yet another victim as the decision whether to allow the Air Marshal Arshad Malik to continue working still is not finalised. While the final decision remains in the offing, in the meantime the National Flag carrier continues to fly rudderless, seemingly cut adrift in the wild blue yonder since the last three months or so.

pakistan international airline

Organizations are not ‘democracies’

The courts forget that successive governments have deemed the in house capacity of PIA Management much to be desired and hence have appointed “outsiders” to steer a rudderless ship. Organizations are not democracies, you don’t vote in your bosses. But this is seemingly prevailing as in both instances the plea for filling cases at the superior court was to protect the sale of national assets or for removing the flag from the tail of its aircraft.

Nature seems to be doing it now. Paint chipped off aircraft proudly hoisting the flag on their tails have become a common sight.

I came across some photos posted by aviation enthusiasts sporting the “proudly protected” flag and livery adorned by the National Carrier with chipped off the paint on the top side of the aircraft fuselage of AP-BMG and AP-BGL both Boeing B-777-200 ER aircraft.

PIA is no longer a going concern and has been on the verge of bankruptcy since long. With the Air Marshal made dysfunctional, the rudderless ship has been cut adrift, left to the mercy of the vultures. I am listing down some major incidents that point towards the turbulent affairs in recent times.

~ Unfortunately, our judges seem to be oblivious to it all:

  1. Long aircraft groundings have returned to haunt PIA, it would seem that genuine effort had gone into making the fleet operational. The fleet management capability is dwindling, currently; 2 B-777s are grounded while one is being cannibalized to make the other airworthy. PIA Engineering has yet again failed to procure parts on time. A grounded ATR-72 was made airworthy which had been parked since 2018, however, another has now been sent to the hanger with no possibility in sight for operability.

  2. Technical incidents too are on the rise, safety record was at an all-time high. However, since December 2019 PIA has had several incidents relating to aircraft safety. From an ATR-42 having its emergency exit door upon the landing jerk at Sukkur airport, an Airbus A320 returned to Dubai after its landing gears failed to retract after takeoff.The flight was cancelled and the aircraft had to fly ferry back to Pakistan. Again at Sukkur, yet another ATR-42 was delayed by seven hours for unknown reasons, leaving the passengers helpless and being mishandled by the staff. Ramp returns, sleeping in the cockpit while flying over Europe on autopilot and being intercepted by fighter jets and much much more. Operations deploy aircraft on availability and not on commercial viability basis, the cost of this misdemeanour will come back to haunt the management soon enough.

  3. Customer confidence is going down and the coronavirus scare is also not helping. Right or wrong the Air Marshal had a following in the passenger base and they were supporting him and his efforts resultantly customer confidence had built up, which is in the tatters again. The financial cost of this decision will probably never be accounted for.As we are a nation that believes in tangible, “seeing is believing” benefits the intangibles are never taken into account. Hence, we will never purchase a fire extinguisher to keep ready at home because the probability is that we will never experience a fire. The number of passengers travelling with PIA has fallen by 50,000 when comparing January with February 2020, this should be indicative of the loss in confidence.

  4. The commercial performance of the ATR operations has also deteriorated substantially. PIA has incurred an operating loss increasing from PKR 107 Mn in January 2019 to PKR 162 Mn in January 2020.

It is absolute chaos with employees being pitted against one another, throwing out a plethora of complaints to any known agency under the government function with the intent malign one another. It seems to be turning into a case of “rotten apples” an analogy used for the failing of the McIntosh Experiment at Apple Inc. by Steve Jobs back in the 90s.

Salary is being delayed and rumours are about that PIA will lack the liquidity to simply pay off its employees altogether. Due to loss of confidence, the fleet increase plan is in the doldrums. PIA was to receive its second Airbus A320 in December 2020 which hasn’t joined the fleet as yet. Fuel supply is again being deterred by PSO, this disruption had almost disappeared and the sister government-owned entity is simply uninterested in selling PIA fuel on credit.

To cut the long story short, PIA has gone to the boondocks again and the turnaround effort has seriously been stymied. I doubt if the momentum lost would be regained even if the Air Marshal returns as the ante has been upped and double the effort would be required to reel in the rudderless ship.

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