Great number of people to fly with

After a decade and a half of monumental losses the Pakistan International Airlines has finally discovered what has been ailing it for ages: music. Yes, the national carrier has figured out that the music that it plays on board needed to be fixed as the topmost priority if it is to have any chance to continue to exist in the future.

This perhaps also explains the warfare expertise that the airlines is looking for in its next Chief Executive Officer as underlined in the job advertisement published in all leading nationwide newspapers. Maybe the music needed to be fixed on war-footing. And it has been.

But since that particular problem as already been fixed – albeit for specific routes, with others hopefully will be straightened soon thereafter – the next CEO can look at other issues that mar the PIA. For instance, which animal needs to be sacrificed before which flight? One would assume that the longer the route, the larger the animal. That might also explain why many of the PIA’s longer routes have been cut down, given how many camels it requires to ensure their continuation.

Even so, let’s confess that it’s not quite as straightforward to figure out the impact of music, animals and other such variables on an individual flight and indeed the functioning of the airlines as a business. Therefore, perhaps, the next PIA CEO should be required to have a degree in religious studies, to cater to the ideological needs of the airlines.

It is no secret that it is bankruptcy of the moral kind that is stimulating its financial counterpart. PIA’s cumulative is PKR 365 billion, further liabilities worth over PKR 400 billion, with assets around PKR 100 billion. There’s a shortfall of PKR 2 billion every month in operational losses.

It is mandatory, therefore, for the next PIA CEO to have a degree in mathematics as well to figure out whether the abovementioned numbers belong to a profit-making company or one that makes loss.

As difficult as that calculus is going to be, what is perhaps even more challenging – further evident by the fact that no one seems to have come up with the requisite formulae in years – is calculating whether 18,000 employees are enough for an operating fleet of 32.

Perhaps it is the shortage of actual workers that is PIA’s biggest problem. Perhaps 550 employees per aircraft doesn’t suffice.

Now this 550 might be five times more than Air India’s ratio of employees per aircraft, but is Pakistan’s national carrier going to be satisfied by just a five-time lead? It is national carriers we’re talking about, and perhaps Pakistan should be beating India by a more convincing margin.

Three years ago, PIA was second behind Syrian Air in the highest number of employees per aircraft, and there is no reason why Pakistan’s national airlines shouldn’t aim to top the charts. After all, if the PIA has great people to fly with, the more the people the greater it shall be.

Maybe that will help the PIA get off the defaulters list where it has been placed by the Pakistan Stock Exchange. Because it is these great people, thousands in number, which epitomise everything that is great about the PIA.

These great people have ensured that the PIA functions like a parliament itself with members of various political parties, present in varying strengths, running the state of affairs. Yes, it has aliens as well.

This is how the PIA Corporation (Conversion) Bill 2015 was shot down after being passed by the National Assembly, with decisive input from the protests.

And as long as the great number of people that Pakistan’s economy is currently flying with remains great, the PIA might soon start functioning as the worst in flight madrassa network. Funding won’t be a problem then, of course.


The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.


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