29 Years and 10 months or 10896 Days after Pan AM 73 (Sept 5th 1986) was high jacked in Pakistan, roughly 3 decades later we still haven’t been able to recover from our loss. We can sum it all up in with these letters: AP-BCD. That is the registration number of a Boeing 737, which PIA leased to Emirates in 1985 a year prior to this highjacking, to start its operations.
Sadly, 3 decades on, PIA was till recently still flying it, struggling to fund a replacement, while the Dubai-based carrier has built one of the most modern fleets in the world. We must not blame them for their success but must retrospectively look at our over all ineptitude and failing political and economic position
This post has little to do with PIA but a lot to do with how others have capitalized from our initial victories and the early achievements our forefathers who had fought hard to put structure, growth, ambition and results in place.
Clearly due to their foresight and due to a sense of nation building they did what they had to do. Where as today every facet of society is impacted by the general apathy that is prevailing every where we look. Its easy to blame politicians its easier to blame men in uniform, but the real culprits are the average people who let the ruling elite get away with putting us in this hole.
If I want to go anywhere or do any kind of trade or be even marginally competitive I’m stumped at the beginning of that conversation because my initial cost of doing business or travel is higher than most if not every one else in the region. Plus the exchequer is loosing direct and indirect revenue and taxes, had most airlines stayed in Pakistan or had PIA not discontinued its services to majority of the destinations it flew directly to in the past.
Here’s a glimpse at the sad truth, we have lost Cathay, Malaysian, Singapore, Swiss, Al-Italia, Japan Airline, Air France, Lufthansa , KLM and British Airways, I am sure there were others that I don’t know about missing from this list.
International Travel has gone up by 11% roughly by CAA estimates(2013/14), but the serviceability from PIA and global players is on the decline.
The domestic situation isn’t any prettier: whilst the IATA (International Air Transport Association) forecasts Pakistan domestic air travel will grow at least 9.5% per year, more than 2X faster than the world average annual growth rate of 4.1% over the next 20 years. Keeping that in mind domestic travel options are equally non-existent but the needs continues to grow.
However despite growth in traffic domestically and internationally, the number of international airlines has drastically been reduced and the direct services of PIA have also been clipped. So its about time the powers be fixed PIA or sold it or at least made it more competitive?
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pakistan_International_Airlines_destinations to get an idea of the terminated air routes)
As a consumer why should I have to travel in an opposing direction first to the GCC and then onwards or add hours to my travel time, if I actually want to fly to say Nepal or Tokyo.
Similarly why should I have to go to Colombo if I want to go China or India. Direct flights options being next to non existent we are forced to fly to the global hub of our limited partners. They are definitely exploiting this, if we had more carriers, this would benefit the end consumer and would allow for more trade and cross cultural exchanges. (Given our current geo political and socio religious stances perhaps the question is, if any one would really come to Pakistan for tourism? Perhaps that is an other post all together)
Similarly in the past We, the consumer had the option to break journey in Europe with either a large buffet of PIA services or other European carriers. Today both on pricing and level of treatment Emirates and Etihad do not consider the PK-GCC-PK route as tier one, we are forced to pay non competitive rates due to a near monopolistic control, yet tier one service is only reserved for “Caucasians” “Westerners” as determined by visual queues gathered by all the GCC players and their staff. Saudi Airlines being the exception as they are “douches” to pretty much every one regardless of creed. They should be given a history lesson on the help received from the SSG Commandoes in 1979. Perhaps their long term memory loss will be jogged then.
Simple example of what happens on this route, Airlines serve doggy bags instead of real in-flight meals citing not adequate travel time, further the planes on both Emirates and Etihad from Karachi at least, more times than none don’t dock with the terminal they are parked away from the terminal and we are treated to stairs and a bus ride once in the GCC. At the very least services should be reciprocated as both airlines dock at KHI.
On other similar time frame flights originating from Dubai or Abu Dhabi the doggy bag argument doesn’t hold, nor does the less than decent treatment. We are special like that, we teach people how to fish and they take the pole from us and use us as bait.
We are becoming more and more inaccessible as a country and as a people, as our religious right drives us to further isolation our political and state machinery and their ineptitude will drive us to economic isolation.
The question is, why hasn’t any one given 2 cents about this phenomenon? Clearly its been 30 years in the making. The issue really is that the 1% who continue to influence these decisions are the same 1% who travel First and Business class, so they aren’t impacted by the common man or the average Pakistani laborers plight when he gets treated inappropriately because they will get off in Dubai and make their connection to their next vacation stop, using Marhaba services. There is Zero impact to their lives. Actually they prefer not being associated with the “other class” of Pakistanis onboard.
So its not just only about air lines and flight options its about how we are widening the divide by not caring. Its about time some one cared enough and figured out a way by bringing back some of the international airlines and worked on a strategy to fix our own broken down infrastructure. We must demand that, of our government at the very least. That a good idea, but we will have to take a flight to have that demand heard.
Clearly since more than half the political machinery is in England for Eid, it may be a good option to perhaps to utilize PIAs still functioning flight and shed light on this cause, before PIA stops flying to London too.