LAHORE – The PIA management paid $5 million to lease a Greek registered Boeing 747-200, owned by a controversial company, on wet lease to carry out Haj operation.
Ten days have passed but the aircraft has yet to fly because it is neither serviceable nor has proper documentation that would be acceptable to Saudi Civil Aviation authorities, sources in PIA revealed Saturday. Both PIA and CAA failed to do follow basic criteria. PIA staff having skills and experience about Boeing 747 was not taken in the loop, and they were not involved in the aircraft evaluation process.
The cancellation Pre-Haj schedule flights including seven from Lahore which were supposed to carry pilgrims to Jeddah has happened for the first time in PIA. The airline had capacity to carry the passengers that it committed to fly for Haj. But this capacity was eroded by flaws and irregularities that plague its procurement and maintenance, overhaul, repair and outsourcing departments.
With three of its Boeing 747 grounded due to engine failures, the airline should have leased aircraft well in advance, instead of delaying them, so that objective of huge commissions could materialise and procedures laid down by PPRA for inviting quotations to get the best deal could be by-passed. The PIA which has failed to provide reliable and credible air transport services to pilgrims has rented a Haji Camp at Jeddah for 30 days at a heavy amount in the range of $5 million in Jeddah, where pilgrims will be accommodated for 24 hours prior to their departure, although every pilgrim has paid for accommodation to their assigned Mualim or tour operator.
When contacted, PIA Spokesman Sultan Hassan said that the plane in question was not purchased especially for Haj operation rather it was to be used as a stand-by plane to facilitate the passengers of any plane which could not fly due to some reason.
He said that plane was parked in Hanger at Karachi Airport for renovation and cleanliness and its documents were sent to Greece for verification. He said, “I am hopeful that the said plane would start its operation within next 24 hours.”
To a question about renting a building for pilgrims, he said that it was a self-service type building to facilitate the pilgrims whose flights got delayed after their arrival at Jeddah Airport. The pilgrims would stay there and PIA and Ministry of Religious Affairs would pay SR46 per pilgrim to Saudi government. An agreement has been singed in this regard between Pakistan and Saudi Arab, he added.