Shortage of Staff: PIA submits report in SC

KARACHI (PPI) Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has submitted a report containing the five-year financial plan to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court on Dec 17 rejected the plea of PIA seeking permission to recruit 200 employees, including 80 pilots. The apex court has asked PIA to submit a detailed report in this regard. The supreme court has put a ban on new recruitment in PIA since 2018.
PIA submitted the report through its counsel Salman Akram Raja in the apex court. The report, prepared on the International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s recommendations, revealed that PIA is facing an extreme shortage of professional and skilled employees in the areas of flight operations; services; information and technology; and finance.
“Total separation of employees in PIA since 2018 is 5,793 out of which 1,199 employees pertain to flight operations (pilots), flight services (cabin crew), finance, and IT department. No fresh hiring has been made whereas our immediate requirement is 250 employees for the year 2023,” read the report. A three-judge bench of the SC, led by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, will take up the PIA plea next week seeking permission for the recruitment of 250 skillful workers.
The report revealed that as the SC restricted the national carrier from recruiting any manpower since 2018, the airline was unable to induct fresh blood, resulting in an increase in the average age of its existing employees to 45.2 years.
This has created a deficiency of operational crew and new employees having the latest technological-cum-corporate knowledge with the contemporary skillset required to uplift the national flag carrier to an era of advancement and innovative strategic commercial operations,” the report stated. It is also mentioned that the PIA had recently arranged code-sharing with Turkish Airlines. The report added that an increase in the frequency of flights would be a key requirement for running operations smoothly. “As an outcome of the code-share arrangement with Turkish Airlines, the PIA is projecting an annual revenue of Rs205 billion for the year 2023,” it added.
“The fresh induction of manpower is critical for the achievement of the projected revenue. Moreover, IATA in its plan has also recommended to the PIA for enhancement of fleet and a corresponding increase in human resources based on competence,” the report added. It is also stated that despite the lack of support from the government, the PIA had been able to add four A320 aircraft and one A320 Simulator to its fleet during the year 2022. “A total of 22 weekly flights to the UK and six weekly flights to the EU could not be added due to the EASA suspension; remote audit planned on March, 7 2023 subsequent to which operations to these destinations are likely to resume depending on the outcome,” it added.
The report forecast that domestic traffic would grow from 3.2 million passengers in 2022 to 4.6 million in 2026 (PIA market share = 54%).
International traffic would grow from 10.7 million passengers in 2022 to 19.1 million in 2026 (PIA market share = 27%) with major market expansion in Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK, Canada, US, Australia, Afghanistan, Central Asian states, Malaysia and Turkey, it estimated.
“Due to an increase in domestic and international passenger traffic, additional pilots and cabin crew will be required, to manage the increased flight operations,” the report stated. On cockpit crew requirements, the report stated that 100 additional pilots and first officers were still less than the current requirement and the PIA was barely managing its flight operations whereby the duty limitation requirement waiver was requested from the regulator most of the time.
“This results in delays and flight schedule disturbance whereby commercial interest and company’s brand is affected negatively,” the report explained. “Moreover, four new aircraft have been added at the same time. The delta of variations of pilots vs aircraft have adversely affected the flight operations; therefore, statistically, due to unavailability and shortage of pilots, 29 flights have been cancelled in the month of December resulting in serious revenue and reputational loss,” it added.
The PIA also submitted to the court that in the post-Covid situation, because of the expansion of flight operations, the airlines were attracting pilots with heavy salaries, which the national carrier could not match.
“Currently, 12 NOCs for jobs and 12 applications for resignations/early retirement are already submitted by the PIA pilots, who are now on the verge of separation,” the report maintained.
“In 2023, 13 more separations were expected due to superannuation of age. Even if the ban is lifted on recruitment of hiring of cockpit crew, the PIA still needs 3 to 6-month time for the training of rated pilots and more than nine months to one year is required for cadet pilots until the first flight,” it added.
The PIA submitted in its report that the hiring of 80 pilots was the bare minimum requirement for the year 2023, and the induction process was required to be started at the earliest.
“Since the imposition of the restrain by the apex court, around 109 pilots have been separated from PIA service,” it claimed.
The national carrier wrote in its report that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) required that an operator establish the minimum number of cabin crew required for each aircraft type in its fleet.
“The goal of this requirement is to allow for a safe and expeditious evacuation of the aircraft, and to enable cabin crew to carry out the necessary functions to be performed in an emergency or a situation requiring emergency evacuation,” it elaborated.
The report stated that to meet the operational challenges, there was a dire need to recruit professional and skilled manpower in operational areas on a priority basis and the strength required.