Keeping in view the safety and security of our country, the overflying, allowing foreign airlines to land and uplift passengers to/from Pakistan and opening new stations by our national and private carriers, will be a progressive step in aviation field, as being practiced in developed and under-developing countries.
This makes citizens closer in shortest possible time, both nationally and internationally, enabling citizens to afford maximum air-travel. It depends on availability of vast choice and variety of competitive and affordable fares of different airlines network. This facility is available to citizens in many countries of the sub-continent including our neighborhood.
Pakistan has yet to visualize and avail opportunities and come up in aviation field. Limited network of our national as well as private airlines requires expansion and facilitation in national interest.
Presently, in addition to Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIAC), we operate just two private airlines on short network, both domestically & internationally. Train and sea links for international ravel of passengers also needs attention.
Among two private airlines, Shaheen Air International, the second national carrier of Pakistan, is grounded, minimizing air-travel facilitation and choices to citizens, both nationally and internationally. It is not only inconveniencing citizens but also contributing to establish monopoly of remaining airlines, offering high fares with no other choice, forcing citizens, to use other means of transportation, consuming large span of time.
Many overseas Pakistanis, after travelling by air internationally, are forced to travel by surface on slow transport due to expensive domestic air-travel, beyond their paying limits. This causes overseas Pakistani to spend 2-4 days (both In/Out) of their annual leave, experiencing lot of inconveniences.
Non-availability of more Pakistani private airlines, overseas Pakistanis have no alternate but to travel by foreign airlines, back to/from home to stations, where PIAC does not operate. This is promoting business of foreign airlines, minimizing opportunities of Pakistani airlines.
Previously, Shaheen Air International and Air Blue, two Pakistani private airlines, operated their frequencies internationally, especially in middle eastern countries, a hub of expatriates, who remit huge foreign exchange and contribute to national economy. They need facilitation of air travel by Pakistani airlines, offering choice of affordable fares to reach home. Instantly, one of Pakistani private airline SAI, offering reasonable fares, is closed down by CAA.
The situation demands national support to lift a Pakistani private airline in same spirit, as being extended to PIAC, burdened with dues more than private airline. The discrimination in support of both Pakistani carriers, PIAC & SAI, is not justified.
Suspending license of SAI and attachment of its offices by CAA, has rendered many Pakistanis and their family dependents, both at home and abroad, without bread & butter in contravention of the stated policy of PTI Government to provide maximum job opportunities.
Not only the grounded private airlines, holding CAA license to fly, deserve revival. Support of government should be equal. Launching of other private airline will facilitate citizens to travel by air with choices, instead of experiencing the monopoly of one airline operation. This will also release the burden of state liability due to joblessness, in national interest.
Indirectly, the expansion of private airlines network in Pakistan, will create job opportunities in General Handling Agents of airport and Sales through-out country and payment of relevant taxes to CAA, promoting the private business and income in national interest.
If CAA, Ministries of Aviation, Commerce and Prime Minister of Pakistan extend support to uplift grounded private airlines of Pakistan, it will facilitate overseas Pakistanis to travel conveniently on affordable fare and also support many employees of grounded airlines to resume their jobs besides payment of their dues, not paid since grounding of airline.
This arrangement will serve as 'Shelter-Home' for needy overseas Pakistanis, redundant employees and citizens in general to facilitate air-travel.
Hasan Adil Malik (Karachi)
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020