Aviation’s history extends for over two thousand years, from the earliest forms such as flying kites and attempts at tower jumping to supersonic flights powered by gas turbine engines. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is considered as one of the earliest airlines of South Asia operating since 1955. Has it not been for the tireless efforts of the Pakistan’s aviation industry, we would not have achieved the milestones we did.
In an era where countries around the globe struggled to establish state carriers, Pakistan’s airline industry had been enjoying its glorious phase. PIA comprised some of the brilliant aviation minds who drove the sector to the skies during the 1960s, which is also considered as the golden era of the airlines sector. Pakistan’s national flag carrier was among the top airlines offering top-of-line services with state-of-the-art airplanes. With growing progress and expansion, the PIA also lent support to the Singapore and Emirate Airlines, which are considered as the best around the globe in the current time.
However, after a series of losses incurred by the booming Pakistani aviation industry over the last few decades, the airline has lost its repute it once enjoyed among its passengers. Swiftly moving into the 21st century, Pakistan has still not been able to recover from the losses allowing the industry to stand back on its feet.
Whilst the rest of the world is experiencing downsizing in the airline sector, PIA airlines has not made its employees redundant. Even though the airlines own a number of planes, budgetary returns are insufficient due to number of reasons including overstaffing, alleged corrupt practices, lack of leadership and qualified individuals, and political interferences. There have been several attempts to revive the national flag carrier; however, a majority have gone in vain due to lack of consistency in governments’ responses over the years – with one political government investing, while the subsequent ones reverting or retracting the earlier made decisions experimenting with new policies. Such political jiggle-jaggles has left the industry to tatters.
The current COVID-19 pandemic may have posed a challenge for many foreign airlines limiting their operations, it presents an opportunity for Pakistan International Airlines in the form of time to focus on development and improving its policies, services and human capital. In order to improve the working conditions, the industry may focus on providing more advance services whether it is in the field of technology, customer care, promotions or new marketing strategies.
Positioning of the airlines may be altered, making masses realise that local is better, cheaper and it backs the economy as well. These strategies for revival may assist in setting up standards for other struggling airlines as well. Advancement in the use of information technology has remained one of the major concerns of our country in every aspect, and incorporating it with the machineries and vehicles is an expensive path to pave but worth the profits it can earn. Technological advancement will make the travelling convenient. Technological measures such as pre-booking of customized food and services, online check-ins, luggage drop-in, improved website services, pre-booking of wheelchairs, etc. are some strategies which may also assist to attract more travellers.
Our national airlines are yet to compete with the benchmarks set all over the world. The revised goals should now focus on competing with the world class airlines, and attracting foreign travellers.
One of the major gaps that Pakistan International Airlines should also work upon is targeting the higher and middle-income segments, as the current services being offered are not what a businessman would be ready to pay for. Delays in flights, rude behavior of staff, inadequate online services, and the list goes on hampers not only the image of the airlines, but also heavily effects the revenues. Frequent travelers prefer convenience, luxury, and a delightful flying experience.
It is essential for the airlines to understand such measures, and provide them with the best-possible services. The political governments must also help establish sound policies and update the legal framework governing the airlines. Such measures will also help curb the corrupt practices, and resolve issues such as overstaffing and other political interferences. The incumbent government led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) may revisit the policies and procedures established for this once-top-of-the-line airlines to return to its feet.
The vision is to develop an infrastructure for safe, secure, efficient, adequate, economical and well-coordinated civil air transport service in Pakistan. Pakistan has done it in the past, and it should not be a very difficult task ahead as well.
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