atmosphere is essential for the success"
Arif Abbasi, former managing director, PIA speaks
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Sep 04 - 10, 2000
Arif Ali Khan Abbasi worked for PIA as Managing
Director for about 6 months i.e. October 12, 1999 to May 11, 2000
without any formal contract. In fact he had been working for PIA in
different times and different positions including Managing Director.
Abbasi described his last assignment as a daily wager due to absence
of any formal contract.
Giving a brief about his 6-month stay in PIA, Arif
Abbasi told PAGE that problems of PIA are complex. Interference
of Islamabad in day to day operations is not conducive to effective
management. He felt that PIA couldn't be made efficient if this
confusion is allowed to continue.
Abbasi said his tasks and priorities were largely
dictated by the conditions obtaining at PIA at the time of taking
Spelling out the conditions prevailing in PIA when
he took over, Abbasi said that the overdraft and other financial
liabilities against PIA were Rs18 billion and some of which were at
exorbitant rates. At the time of his taking over 8 aircraft were on
the ground and not operational. A leased Airbus had its engines
removed and missing. There was a total financial mess in the airline
and the company was not in a position to serve the debts and payments
of other bills.
Consequently, Boeing and General Electric had
stopped supplying spare parts for Airplane and Engines because of
non-payments of their bills. PIA did not have funds or any credit line
available for payment of daily allowances to its crew members abroad.
At the time of taking over, Y2K (Millennium Bug) problem was posing a
serious threat as it had not been adequately addressed while time was
running short as the deadline was ensuing fast. Sabre (an American
Company) who was running the Airline had absconded citing their own
security concerns at their on reason. This, according to them, arose
because of the change in Government. They had been paid over Rs80
crores and had an invoice of $21 million pending for payment.
Lashing out at the Golden Handshake Scheme and
Early Retirement Schemes in Pakistan, Abbasi said the two schemes had
taken its toll demoralizing the workforce. Consequently the Airline
had lost some of its more able and trained manpower. Arif Abbasi also
regretted what he called the unilateral withdrawal of benefits such as
Medical and tickets to the retired employees. This was a contractual
obligation and its withdrawal would have been contested in the Courts.
The withdrawal was going to demoralize the employees for no reason, as
its financial impact was negligible.
Regarding the allegations that he was not meeting
targets and not delivering the goods, Abbasi said that scores of
achievements are self-explanatory to all questions raised by different
Abbasi said that due to his personal efforts, he
got Boeing and General Electric to restore supply of Spare Parts and
got all the grounded aircraft operational, all in-house effort saving
The former Managing Director also takes pride while
talking about the Haj Operations during his 6-month stay in the
national carrier. He said that no aircraft was hired outside the
airline and PIA did the Haj Operations by making use of the aircraft
earlier lying grounded.
That Haj Operations coped with the problem of
transporting 110,000 Hajis in a period of 28 days and thus saved $8-10
million for the airline, Abbasi claimed.
Despite adverse financial conditions, our own
resources solved the Y2k problem. Abbasi especially mentioned his
efforts he initiated for regularity of the airline operations which
went up to 80 per cent and the seat factor increased to 72 per cent in
the traditionally low season. As a result of these initiatives, PIA
became world leaders in Aircraft Utilization of Airbus.
During that period a joint venture was also signed
with Shaheen Foundation for merging the ground handling facilities of
the two respective organizations at all airports in Pakistan. PIA's
Ground Training School, which is known for providing technical
training to a large number of airlines of various countries was in a
crumbling position. This Ground Training School was revamped to
retrain and update all passenger handling personnel.
Regarding expansion in PIA operations, he said that
PIA successfully added Manchester to PIA's Atlantic route with traffic
rights to carry passengers from UK to USA. This right was being sought
for the last 30 years. There was a plan to make UK a hub for PIA with
permission for operations to Birmingham and Glasgow and had obtained
additional landing rights into Heathrow Airport. Besides, Hong Kong
became an additional destination. Tripoli was revived and there was a
move with Iran to start operations ex-Iran to European destinations. A
deal for possible sale of our old 747-200 Jumbos and supply of oil
against that deal was also under consideration.