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PIA: CONSOLIDATING ITS RESOURCES

 

Two dedicated aircraft exclusively for cargo shipments from next year

 

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Sep 09 - 15, 2002
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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 cargo flights.

Taking stock of the situation, the national airline has decided that it will be acquiring two dedicated cargo charters from next year.

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.