A large chunk of freight charges paid by Pakistan's
business community for cargo shipments either through sea or air
pocketed by the foreign flagships or foreign airliners.
This is obviously due to inadequate space earmarked
by the national airline for cargo or almost non-existent of ocean going
vessels operating under the national flag.
According to an estimate the total amount paid for
freight charges through sea and air comes to over $2.5 billion a year,
that is certainly causes a heavy drain of the national resources. The
private sector however will have to come forward for bridging the gap in
the communication sector specially in the shipping industry.
Pakistan International Airline originally a passenger
airline obviously has to treat its passenger traffic on priority basis
as compared to the cargo traffic.
Matin Siddiqi, Chairman of All Pakistan Fresh Fruit
Exporters and Processors says that the national airline generally offers
space for 25 tons of fresh fruits or vegetables yet it is hardly
provides space for 12-18 tons of exportable cargo due to their
priorities. Hence the exporters have to look for other international
airlines operating their cargo services from Pakistan. Matin Siddiqi
said that market for Pakistani products especially fresh fruits is
gradually increasing which reflects in the current year's export figures
as compared to the previous years. Citing the example of increased
external trade he said last year Pakistan exported about 47000 tons of
mangoes, which crossed the mark of 50,000 tons in the current mango
season. Similarly, increase in export of other fruits like kinno,
grapes, and dates etc is also witnessed. This situation demands for
special arrangements for cargo space in national airline to cash on the
situation at the optimum level. Welcoming the announcement made by the
PIA management that it is going to operate two dedicated aircraft
exclusively for cargo shipments from next year. Matin Siddiqi while
appreciating the completion of Allama Iqbal Terminal at Lahore, observed
that this modern facility at the capital Punjab will also help boosting
exports from that highly rich sector in exportable items.
It may be noted that as a consequent to the September
11 events, most of the international airlines operating from Pakistan
had suspended their Pakistan operations which proved a windfall
opportunity for PIA to enhance its revenues both on passenger as well as
Taking stock of the situation, the national airline
has decided that it will be acquiring two dedicated cargo charters from
Addressing business community in Lahore, PIA's
Managing Director has said that it would help handling the flowers,
mangoes, and fresh fruit cargo. The corporation is intended to capture
over 60 per cent of the cargo market through these aircraft.
Once on the verge of bankruptcy, the national airline
had even less than one per cent share in communication sector of
Pakistan. Chaudhry Ahmed Saeed, MD PIA says that when he had taken over
the charge some 15 months back PIA was incurring a loss of Rs2 billion
which has now taken a turn around by posting a respectable profit of
Rs900 million for the organization. In an effort to financially revive
the corporation, the management approached the government with its plan
for restructuring of the airline. This plan calls for injection of
equity, suspension of trade union activities, increasing Hajj fares and
linking fares to fuel prices. We got everything from government, which
we demanded. We have prepared a 10-year concrete and practicable plan.
We would not be increasing our fleet rather we would be replacing the
old aircraft. He said the Fokker planes would be replaced with new turbo
or two or three year old turbo aircraft. He said that 777 Boeings would
be introduced and after every three year, three new 777 would be
inducted in the next 10 year period, revenue would be enhanced from Rs45
billion to Rs100 billion, he claimed.
He said that open sky policy has badly hit PIA, as in
his opinion if PIA fly to one destination to any country, airline of
that country should be allowed only one destination in Pakistan. He said
that they were contesting this issue with the government.
He also said that they have also decided to restore
the suspended early morning flight from Lahore-Karachi on a 6-month
trial basis. It is now to be seen how the business community responds to
this schedule to help PIA generating traffic for this flight; otherwise
there is no use of flying empty aircraft. He also said that problems of
not giving booking despite availability of seats on any flight have
reduced while punctuality has also been ensured. He said that target for
profit this year is Rs2.4 billion and it would be achieved without any
retrenchment. He said that they would address the problem of
over-staffing in the organization, but keeping in view the
circumstances. He assured the business community of Lahore that despite
being old, planes of PIA are safe. He said that three flights have been
started from Lahore to Islamabad.