PIA ENGINEERING ON THE TOP

Excellence achieved by the engineering department has opened new avenues for revenue generation

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Apr 19 - 25, 2004

The European Aviation Safety Agency (ESA) has accorded Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Engineering Department with the prestigious PART-145, the quality certification bringing the engineers of the national career to the world class status of Approved Maintenance Organization (AMO).

By virtue of Part-145 certification, PIA has become an approved maintenance organization for commercial aircraft, covering the activities relating to maintenance of all types of aircraft and components from any airline in the world.

The national career is now entitled to offer its maintenance services to other airlines without and outside Pakistan.

Well placed sources in PIA said that excellence achieved by the engineering department has opened new avenues for revenue generation, which might be even more profitable than the revenue generated through flight operations by the airline. That means that the profits of the national airline are likely to take a quantum jump in the days to come provided the airline keeps up the quality standards required under this certification.

Actually, it calls for extra care as well as efficiency to maintain the standards, as the Civil Aviation (GSAC), France carry out quality test every six month of the holder of the certificate part-145. Earlier the Emirates had won the certificate part-145 but could not retain the quality of services it had previously. Consequently, the certificate was withdrawn by GSAC. It amounts walking on a tight rope to continue with the honor of part-145, said a top ranking PIA official.

Soon after certification, PIA management has received enquiries from a large number of airlines for maintenance of their flights. Besides, domestic airlines including Shaheen Air, Aero Asia etc foreign airlines have also approached for maintenance and checks of their aircraft. Enquiries received from Flyair and MNG of Turkey, Indonesia and Bangladesh airlines for different checks and maintenance of aircraft.

The usual charges for such checks and maintenance are estimated at $60 per hour which means it's a costly affair and can bring huge money if PIA manages to retain the title, sources said.

PIA, which is currently operating on 38 destinations, is actively engaged for expanding its operations by adding new destinations to take the total up to 50 all over the world. The decision is being taken after the strengthening of PIA's fleet which has been recently reinforced by inducting three Boeing 777 aircraft. While the Fokker aircraft which have come to age, would also be replaced shortly. The strengthening of fleet has enhanced the overall capacity of the airline. In order to use available expanded capacity more productively, PIA management is also reviewing its flight routes. Low yield routes would be replaced by more revenue generating routes.

The resumption of air links with neighboring India has also helped increasing 10 percent revenue of the airline. The overall financial results during the current financial year are projected to post an unprecedented profit of Rs4 billion at the end of June 30, 2004.

PIA is, however, seems to be a little bit disturbed with the arrival of more competitors in the domestic market, while three private sector airlines were already in operations, the Civil Aviation authorities have granted three more licenses to share the local as well as on international routes. Although the aviation policy envisages that private sector airlines would share the burden of low yield routes with the national airline, yet the private sector airlines have not put even a single aircraft on such loss making routes.

According to informed sources, PIA has already expressed its disagreement with the aviation policy and it may ask the government to ask the private sector airlines to operate on some of the loss making routes which is entirely looked after by PIA in the national interest, sources said.

The entire Hajj Operation is solely carried out by PIA every year. Actually, the Hajj flights are heavily subsidized and generate no profit to the airline. The new airlines which are coming into operations may also be given some of the share in the Hajj flights so that the burden could be equally shared by all, it is suggested.

The development of Gwadar deep sea port in Balochistan is likely to generate economic activity in the days to come. So far, it was a loss making route, however, with the development of the port and other projects the traffic on this route has begun to pick up and this route is likely to come at break even by next year. It all depend how the investment plan in that third port city respond, it could be an attractive route for revenue generation provided things move on according to plan. The air strip at Gwadar airport is also being improved to accommodate jet aircraft in near future.

According to a leading industrialist, the key to success of the forthcoming port city in Balochistan lies in the policies of the government. If this port city is declared as a free port like Dubai, sky would be the limit for economic growth of this newly developed port city.