THE CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY

CAA gets international recognition

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Jan 01 - 14, 2001

The civil aviation industry, which is a key factor for promotion of social, political and economic life in the modern times, was unfortunately a neglected sector in Pakistan.

Most of the international airlines early operating from Pakistan were compelled to cease their operations mainly because of harsh bureaucratic attitude, poor quality of airport handling and safety standards and of course exorbitant airport handling and fuel charges in Pakistan. No doubt, the law and order situation has been a problem in Pakistan, yet the international media played a dirty role by blowing the situation out of proportion to place Pakistan as a risk country. It is unfortunate that those responsible for counter such propaganda were also failed miserably to deliver the goods. Consequently Pakistan had to pay the price and most of the international airlines such as KLM, Lufthansa, Pan American, Japan Airlines etc. switched over their operations from Pakistan to Dubai.

The present government has however taken some corrective measures by bringing the fuel charges, airport handling charges at par with the other airports in the region while the present team looking after the civil aviation affairs also proved their professional competency by improving the safety standards which have been officially acknowledged by the International Aviation Organizations. Although the damage has been done yet the civil aviation authorities have done a great job by restoring the image of the country which has been accorded with Cat.1 by the FAO. As a result of their marketing campaign and image building efforts those international airlines which had early left Pakistan are considering resuming their flights from Pakistan. A package of incentives at the airports has also been introduced to attract foreign airlines to route flights through Pakistan. Meetings were also held with the representatives of Oil Companies and Ground Handling Agencies to try and look at the possibilities by offering competitive fuel and handling charges Vs the airports in Gulf and UAE. It is expected that measures would certainly help attracting over-flying cargo airlines to make a technical stop over at Karachi. Reduction of landing/ housing charges by 50 per cent at Karachi for flights has also been implemented which has started showing good results especially for increased technical landings at Karachi airport.

According to informed sources Lufthansa is already in the process of introducing their flights twice a week from Lahore and Islamabad.

In order to get a true picture of the situation; PAGE has interviewed Air Marshal Aliuddin, Director General Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for the benefit of the readers.

Contrary to his cool and composed gestures while discussing small or major issues pertaining to the development of civil aviation standards in Pakistan, Air Marshal Aliuddin, the Director General Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in fact has ambitious rather aggressive plans to give a new look to his organization stagnant for the decades.

The moral boosting achievement in the shape of reinstatement of CAA to the Category-1 recently by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States of America of course goes to the credit of the present team of CAA led by the Air Marshal Ali.

This decision by the US Government is seen as a major breakthrough especially while taking the cool attitude the US administration has been displaying for quite some times in the past.

In a letter received by Air Marshal Aliuddin, Director General CAA, the FAA has confirmed that in accordance with the policy of FAA, the assessment category designation for the Government of Pakistan would be publicly disclosed as Category 1.

This elevating decision has placed Pakistan amongst those privileged countries, which enjoy easy access to any European and American airports. The national carrier is expected to gain special benefits from the re-categorization of Pakistan. In June 2000, the global aviation watchdog International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had put its trust in the standards and rules adopted by CAA after thoroughly examining its flight safety and security standards. Since then the Director General, CAA had been rigorously pursuing the FAA for Cat-1 status.

Finally the recently concluded meeting of the director generals of civil aviation of the Asia and Pacific region held at New Zealand, provided an opportunity to Air Marshal Aliuddin to directly plead his case before the FAA officials. This active persuasion yielded the much-awaited honour for the country. The CAA is setting forth new priorities in order to keep pace with changes in the aviation environment. Being at the conflux of major international routes, CAA is determined to provide safe and efficient air traffic services and strives to improve their quality through the induction of latest technologies.

Though the Air Marshal was keeping a low profile while talking about the future development plans of the CAA yet the plans in hands give a preview of a forthcoming prestigious commercial complex in the periphery of the Jinnah Terminal for generating economic activities in the surroundings.

CAA is endeavouring to launch at least two meaningful commercial projects:

For the first time since inception, Karachi's prime land around Quaid-e-Azam International Airport has been demarcated and mutated in favour of CAA. A new more liberal and realistic land leasing policy is being framed and will be implemented shortly after approval of the CAA Board.

To generate more funds through commercialization of the available resources, the board has approved that open tendering of expired concessions and providing more opportunities to various concessionaires has broad based income through concession areas. This would add up to the projected income of CAA. A contract with McDonalds has been signed and groundbreaking ceremony has already been held for construction of a restaurant at Jinnah Terminal, which would earn CAA sizeable profits. Other major commercial proposals like Housing projects theme parks, schools and hotels are also being pursued. Despite the general economic down turn whereby there is low private sector participation in the economy, it is CAA's target to effect an increase in income of at least 10 per cent. "We aim to execute at least one major project within 6 months. Six monthly evaluation and update of commercialization efforts, total savings and success of the final plan will continue to be provided," the DG of the authority.

Incentives

In order to become competitive and commercially viable within the region and to redress the grievances of the international airlines operating from Karachi, the government has taken some bold decisions on the recommendations of the CAA. In accordance to the policy, the government has reduced the landing and housing charges for all technical landings for regular commercial public transport, cargo and charter operations to a level, which is at par with that prevalent in the region.

Further reduction of 25 per cent in landing and housing charges for every technical landing exceeding 10 in a given calendar month.

Reduction in charges up to 1-15 per cent below that prevalent in the region by ground handling service for technical landings.

Major reduction in aviation fuel prices by the government of Pakistan for technical landings to a level of 2 cent per US Gallon below Dubai aviation fuels prices.

Attractive discounts by the fuel companies for technical landings tied to bulk volume purchases in aviation fuel.

Creation of a transit cargo facility.

Discounted packages for airline crews at the major five star hotels at Karachi.

Single window operations by CAA for all airline operators for any business related with the airport.

Visa on arrival on a payment of a small fee for all travellers excepting those countries on the negative list.

Infrastructure

CAA is also working on additional measures to improve aviation infrastructure throughout the country. Under this programme, a cargo village is to be constructed at Karachi to cater to the bulk cargo exported from Pakistan. This cargo village will also have transit cargo facilities to cater to the needs of the expanding markets in the Middle East and Central Asia.

New Terminal at Lahore. Air Marshal Aliuddin said that in pursuance to Chief Executive's directives for exercising economy in all major ongoing works, the necessary exercise was carried out for economizing expenditure on New Terminal complex at Lahore. A number of meetings were held between CAA, Consultant and Contractor in order to implement the proposed economy drive. Consequently the economy drive proved fruitful in the form of savings worth Rs1.308 billion after deletion and modification of certain specifications in design, reduction in consultancy and supervision charges and allocation for contingency expenditures from the original project cost.

Development of a new terminal complex at Lahore International Airport is another highlight of the CAA. This complex will ease parking congestion at Lahore and enable many carriers to start service to the second largest city of Pakistan.

Construction of a new cargo complex at Lahore International Airport is yet another target to help boost country's export sector. The CAA authorities are aiming at creating a cargo hub at Lahore for the industries and export houses of northern areas through this cargo complex to be developed at Lahore.

Austerity measures

Since November 1999 immediate steps were taken to exercise effective control over leakage and wastage of funds. A stricter financial discipline has been imposed to prevent pilferage and wasteful expenditure. Similarly, to check the tendency of concessionaires to default on CAA payments, a drive was launched against defaulters. Special teams were formed and assigned the task of recovering CAA dues. As a result of this and checks on wasteful spending, CAA was able to save a heavy sum of about Rs630 million. It is our target to effect savings of at least Rs1 billion a year, said the Air Marshal. There has been slow but some progress in reconciliation of long outstanding disputes.

Embargo: CAA is required to pay an amount of RS 2 billion each year for the next 3 years on account of borrowing and contractual obligation of new Lahore Airport. The original plan was to borrow funds to meet debt servicing during 2000 to 2004-5. With the imposition of strict financial discipline with in the organization, CAA has set itself a target to avoid borrowing for the next two years. The target is to finance debt servicing of the project through self-generation over this period.

Policy: CAA has recommended following in the revised national Aviation Policy:

Regulate domestic and international operations.

Encourage competition for both domestic and international carriers.

Attract quality foreign airlines to Pakistan.

Ensure that grant of 5th freedom rights is on a strictly reciprocal basis, catering for commercial value of market, for which the rights are exchanged.

Contain predatory pricing and unfair competition, both internationally and domestically, through a system of filing of tariffs and compliance thereof.

Improve terminal facilities and remove bottlenecks for passengers, making Pakistani airports passenger friendly.

Agreements: Bilateral Air Services Agreement has been concluded with United Kingdom as under:

UK authorities for operation beyond UK and USA have granted fifth freedom rights for Pakistani carriers from points other than London Heathrow and London Gatwick. Reciprocal rights were granted to the other territories.

The designated carriers of the two countries can exercise own stop over rights in each other's territories.

Liberalized exchange of 5th freedom rights has been made on cargo services between the two countries.

Switzerland: Revised Liberal Air Services Agreement was also concluded with Switzerland as follows:

Up to a total of six weekly flights to Islamabad and/ or Lahore, without any capacity restrictions, with no more than three weekly flights to any one point. From summer 2001 schedule, their airlines will be authorized to operate unlimited frequencies to Lahore and Islamabad.

Swiss Air is already permitted unlimited weekly frequencies to Karachi. Subsequently to CAA's "yield improvement programme". Swiss Air has recently launched their fourth weekly frequency between Zurich-Dubai-Karachi.

Cathay Pacific: Cathay Pacific has been designated as the 2nd operating carrier of Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific has commenced its thrice-weekly services to Pakistan on Hong Kong-Bangkok-Karachi sector from September 1, 2000 and their fourth frequency will be launched from January 1, 2002.

An agreement was also signed between Federal Aviation Authority of Russia and CAA of Pakistan concerning the transfer of Regulatory Oversight Functions and Duties.

Pak-Afghanistan: A V-Sat communication link has recently been established between Pakistan and Afghanistan through the involvement of International Airline Transport Association (IATA). The V-Sat link provides online data and voice communication between Lahore/Karachi in Pakistan and five points in Afghanistan. This was a long outstanding demand of IATA to have this link established in order to have instant communications possible between neighbouring Flight Information Regions. These links contribute directly in improving safety of flight and makes it possible to increase airline traffic through Afghanistan, which was hitherto considered unsafe due to lack of communication links. The establishment of a V-Sat link is likely to increase over-flights through Pakistan airspace and will help attract technical landings as well.

Secondary Runway: Secondary Runway Karachi has been completed at a cost of Rs900 million. This additional facility would certainly help enhancing landing facilities at Jinnah terminal.

Wana: CAA is also considering developing an airport at Wana for landing of small planes like Fokker in order to create linkage with Peshawar.

Sialkot: Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry has offered to construct Sialkot airport with their own initiative and funds. Feasibility and commercial viability of the project is under consideration of the chamber.

Passengers: CAA has also initiated a number of steps to bring visible improvement in facilities to passengers at all the airports in Pakistan. At all the major airports, misbehaviour, overcharging and unruly behaviour of taxi drivers has been checked effectively with the help of Military Police. In order to ensure that the passengers are not fleeced, proper counters have been established where fares are displayed and passengers are issued computerized coupons indicating particulars of the taxi being hired and name of the driver so as to hold all concerned accountable for any mishap. Unpredictable flight schedules despite meticulous planning and slots allocation generally cause severe problems. Passenger traffic at Lahore and Islamabad has been increased recently. The present terminal buildings despite recent additions remain inadequate. The introduction of Customs X-ray machines for international departure/ arrival lounges further compounded the problem of both congestion and delays. Now, Customs and ASF use the same X-ray machine for their checks. With the implementation of this policy there is saving both space and time. Now the departing passengers do not have to put their hold baggage through two separate machines. In addition, of both departure and arrival halls have been rearranged with a view to improve passenger traffic flow. At Islamabad, major expansion of the arrival lounges is being executed at a cost of Rs78 million.

Vigilance

Manning of all CAA facilitation and vigilance counters has been ensured. CAA facilitation staff is made available in uniform. Surprise checks to ensure their presence and conduct is also carried out regularly. Signology at all airports have been reviewed and improved. Regular announcements are being made to keep the public informed. Strapping machine facility has been provided at the airports free of charge to the travelling public. Strapping costs are being borne by the airlines.

Baggage: Minimum possible time is taken for transportation of baggage from aircraft to baggage claim area. Adequate arrangements are being ensured to protect the baggage from inclement weather and pilferage during transit on tarmac.

Immigration: Immigration staff has been asked to handle the passengers with courtesy and arrangements are made for filing of disembarkation cards for those who are not proficient enough. There would be separate counters for holders of Pakistan origin cards, foreign passports and Pakistan passports. Customs staff both female and male is emphasized to guide in filling up of forms in case goods have to be declared. Undue harassment of incoming passengers should be avoided at all costs. Existing green channel facilities for passengers who have nothing to declare are publicized and the green channel clearly defined by signologies of Red and Green channel with background of relevant colours so that it can be availed by all those eligible. Checking of leaving passengers, by certain agencies beyond arrival loungers except with written authorization and prior information has been done away with. Airlines, Immigration and ASF personnel man their counters timely to avoid any delay in clearance of passengers.

In view of persistent complaints of harassment and unfair deal to passengers, all porters and meet and assist contracts have been cancelled. This step has resulted in stoppage of passenger's harassment by the porters. There have been numerous complaints from a number of agencies about the lack of porter service facility. CAA has made alternate arrangements from its own staff to help aged travellers, ladies, children and sick passengers.

Outlook

The corrective initiatives taken by the present team of CAA hopefully produce good results improving image of the country within and outside Pakistan. The Master Plan chalked out for creating economic activities around the major airports is yet another step in the right direction to tap all available resources at the optimum level. The upcoming commercial town around Jinnah Terminal would be yet another gift for Karachiites in general after the recently completed Bagh-e-Quaid Azam around the tomb of the Father of the Nation.