WRITTEN BY CH FAISAL MEHMOOD
We have dwelt on the subject of Civil Aviation for long and more so since the Government put a New Civil Aviation Policy on the anvil. Cumulatively, we concerned ourselves with the misfortunes of our national carrier and travelling public, both tracing back to the adoption of non-reciprocal Open Sky Policy.
While commending our posture on the subject, our readers have pointed out its similarity with the United States’ three major airlinesasking fora Fair Sky Policy as regards the State owned carriers in the Gulf. A 3 versus 3 debate is now raging;the three carriers of the country, swearing by private enterprise and advocating open competition, have based their demand on the inequality of assets with those of the three Arab carriers. The Gulf carriers maintain that all three carriers had benefited from USA’s bankruptcy laws which let them shed their debts and cut operating costs enabling them to continue flying.
Recently U.S. and Qatari diplomats signed new agreement to maintain Open Skies agreements between the two countries in exchange for greater financial transparency from Qatar Airways.
The agreement addressed the long-standing claims by U.S. carriers, including the three largest, that Gulf Carriers are violating Open Skies agreements by operating with substantial state subsidies. The Gulf carriers have held firm that they do not benefit from such subsidies.
Qatar Airways in the year ahead will release public annual reports that include financial statements audited according to international accounting standards and the airline also has agreed not to add any fifth-freedom flights to the U.S.
But our base is different.
We go by what Pakistan’s Open Sky Policy has given to Pakistan. This is a legitimate and common ground on which policies are studied for new actions in national interest.
The current aviation policy has had a direct negative impact on PIA and Pakistan’s private sector airlines have not had the space to grow as would be justified from the volume of traffic in and from the country. Travelers have not received any reduction in ticket prices; they have ratherbeen subjected to rank dictatorial attitude towards them and their travel agents. Carriers have subjected travel agents to zero commission and are competing directly with them;all leading to extra financial cost and unnecessary inconvenience to the traveler.Carriers earning well here give no economic spinoffs to local communities and are reported also to be generally conducting themselves imperiously.There is no significant employment generated; fewer local staff are employed and given to work more on less remuneration.
Authors of the New Aviation Policy should look deeper into the industry and its work culture than they have given evidence of; they should adopt the consultative process which we have advocated previously and give our country a civil aviation environment worthy of its geographical and human resource positives.¾