ISLAMABAD -The continued reign of bad times the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is presently trapped in does not seem to be over anytime sooner with the surfacing of yet another scandal involving foul play, this time at the PIA web ticketing services.
An apparent infighting between the two PIA departments appears to have resulted in the alleged loss of around five million rupees to the national exchequer whereby both the departments hold one another responsible for this situation. The documentary evidence suggests that the Managing Director PIA Junaid Yunus ‘requested’ both the departments, the Information Technology (IT) and Marketing, to “draw lessons out of this debacle so that such a situation does not crop up in future.”
In letter number DM/EC/2013 dated May 22, 2013, the MD said, “My question and food for thought is: Is it because of a mismatch between our tall IT claims and on-ground IT capability or is it our attitudes that made the case kicked around between Marketing and IT or combination of both, responsible for this fiasco. Please draw lessons from this debacle so that such a situation does not crop up in future.”
Former secretary aviation Muhammad Ali Gardezi had reportedly ordered an investigation into the issue. But further details about the reported probe could not be acquired since Gardezi is presently abroad and his cell phone is unreachable. The matter is not in knowledge of incumbent Acting Secretary Aviation Nargis Sethi. One of her staff representatives, when contacted, said, the PIA’s official version in this regard could only be provided once the acting secretary looked into the issue.
According to details, the PIA, this May, outsourced its web (online) ticketing services to Sabre Airline Solutions, an international airlines services provider, against $ 49000, after Euroline Bank, the previous service provider, gave PIA the disconnection notice of its services in December 2012. The PIA’s Revenue Accounting department extended the services for three months and on April 8, 2013 the Euroline finally stopped its operations.
Following this, PIA IT department stopped the online reservations of the PIA tickets, the next day.
Purportedly, the contract awarded to Sabre was not completed in the stipulated time period, which allegedly resulted in the financial loss.
The MD PIA in his May 22 letter had also noted, “The termination notice of web sales by Euroline was five months well in advance, whereby, meaning, we had ample time to decide, either to go for outsourced solution or in-house application development. But very unfortunately, no step towards either direction was taken and worst thing that can happen to an airline in this era of internet is, all our web sales came to a grinding halt due to inaction during the given reaction time by the Euroline.”
The PIA IT department had opposed the decision to outsource the online ticketing services to Sabre Airline Solutions, claiming the Sabre’s charges were too high and the IT department had the capability to develop this service in-house without any additional cost.
Available with this scribe, a copy of an email sent by Abdullah Shaikh, Team Manager, E-Commerce, PIA Marketing department, sought approval from the PIA Finance department (Credit Card section) for obtaining required approval of change request (CR) pertaining to the integration of PIA’s new acquiring bank -World Pay, which is involved in facilitating the online payments for web tickets through credit cards.
The email stated that Sabre Airline Solution would be responsible to develop and implement interface with World Pay, enabling to acquire services and settlement of credit card sales, charging PIA the amount of $ 49,000 for these services
The IT department returned the email with its comments and suggestions, the same day. The email said, “In our view, this was a scenario of merely changing of one acquiring bank to another and should be treated as routine process. And thus we could not believe Sabre was charging so heavily. We felt this was high time to save cost and IT offers to develop in-house application/software, enabling PlA to save the above mentioned high cost. The IT has already developed software for ‘Fori Ticket’ and ‘Virtual Agent,’ which PIA is currently using successfully.”
Reportedly, on May 17, 2013, the IT department was told by the PIA general manager Revenue Management that this was a technical interface and IT department “should try to negotiate the charges with Sabre Airline Solutions.”
This, according to an aviation source, took the officials concerned at lT department by surprise who had no idea about the Marketing department’s agreement with Sabre. “It sounded strange why Marketing department was involving IT into the negotiations when they had already concluded the negotiations with Sabre,” commented the source.
From December 2012 to April 2013, the IT department was never involved in any discussion with Sabre, Euroline, or World Pay, the aviation insider claimed The documents further reveal that on 26 May, Director Marketing Khurram Mushtaq requested the MD PIA to allow Sabre Airline Solutions to develop the software for web authorisation in order to avoid any further delays that were resulting in revenue loss to PlA, as Sabre also required a minimum time period of six weeks for development of middleware. This request was seconded by the deputy managing director engineering and approved by the MD.
Passing the buck on IT department, the director marketing wrote to the MD that after receipt of Euroline’s disconnection notice, the section concerned (IT) was supposed to explore available alternative either through usage of indigenous resources or outstanding these multiple tasks to Sabre/other agencies. “We have already missed out our timeline and any further delay may further deplete our selling through web host,” the manager said in his letter, but only after the damage was done.