Saturday, October 01, 2011

Pakistan International Airlines stops media from covering its inefficiencies

LAHORE - To avoid more criticism on the hotchpotch pre-hajj operations, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has taken the easy way out of barring reporters covering the first pre-hajj flight from Lahore, which left for Saudi Arabia on Saturday afternoon.

Arrangements for the first pre-hajj flight witnessed complete mismanagement and lack of coordination among government departments. Federal government official information arm, Press Information Department (PID), announced that Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo would see off intending holy pilgrims at Lahore Hajj Terminal, but they had to start their holy journey without being seen off by the worthy minister.

Airport Security Force (ASF) officials deputed at the Main Gate of the Lahore Hajj Terminal indicated that they had strict instruction from the highest office that no reporters should be allowed to enter the premises of the Hajj Terminal. Even the Press Information Department officials were also barred from entering in the Hajj Terminal.

PID officials were also seen in total confusion as they did not know the status that whether the federal minister was coming or not. They did not have any explanation to the queries of reporters. They considered it easy to abandon the newsmen without give a clarification.

Ironically, it was also learnt that PIA Managing Director Nadeem Khan Yousafzai held a press conference on pre-hajj operations in a local hotel on Saturday, but the national flag carrier’s local management and public relations wing were unaware about this news conference. No official in the PIA’s public relations department knew that their boss held a press conference in Lahore.

A national flag carrier official disclosed that PPP Lahore Secretary Information Tahir Khalique made all arrangements to hold a news conference in Lahore.

PIA public relations issued a press release in the evening, which stated that the national flag carrier had operated 10 pre-hajj flights on time, carrying a total of 3,648 intending holy pilgrims from Quetta, Peshawar, Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore between September 30 and October 1.

It stated that PIA managing director bid farewell to the intending pilgrims at Lahore Hajj Terminal, while PIA Deputy Managing Director Salim Sayani and PIA Director Airport Services Aijaz Mazhar at Karachi Hajj terminal and PIA Director Marketing Anjum Amin Mirza sent off the intending holy pilgrims from Quetta. According to the pre-hajj operations schedule, PIA would carry about 109,000 intending pilgrims on 305 pre-hajj flights to Jeddah from seven major cities of Pakistan. The pre-hajj operation will continue till October 31.

Earlier, Yousufzai said PIA was going to acquire a fleet of 80 new aircraft without the government support. PIA has made special arrangements for the pre- and post-hajj operations and will carry some 120,000 passengers this year. He said the recent incident of ATR aircraft engine failure was not a result of negligence in maintenance, but was an outcome of an inherent industrial fault in the aircraft and the company had also acknowledged it.

PIA had booked a Haji Camp in Jeddah close to the airport building to facilitate holy pilgrims in case of the flight delay. In addition, the national flag carrier had made arrangements to transport their luggage before them to the airport so that their hassle could reduce, he maintained.

Yousufzai indicated that PIA was facing some technical problems owing aircraft spare parts procurement procedure. However, the new deal with a spare parts manufacturer would give some relief as the vendor had promised to allow $700 million credit facility. It would help PIA in getting speedy delivery of parts and better maintenance. In addition, the new deal would help the airline in saving $15-20 million, he estimated. He blamed fluctuations in fuel prices for pushing airline in to losses. However, he underscored that under his leadership the airline would bring back to breakeven in the next five years.

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