LAHORE - The European Union has expressed concerns over “systematic deficiency” in PIA aircraft maintenance following detection of 40 uncertified defects on PK-734 operated by A310 at Paris on 9 Aug 2011 and has termed CAA regulatory controls as “unreliable”. European Aviation Safety Agency has communicated to both PIA and CAA that final decision regarding placing of censures including ban is likely to be taken in March 2012 at the agency’s next scheduled meeting.  In a letter dated Nov 11, 2011 the agency stated “As part of ongoing surveillance of Part 145 holders, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has accredited DGAC France to perform routine inspections on PIA on behalf of EASA”. SAFA inspections have increased at London, Manchester and other airports, following increase in incidences involving PIA aircrafts with uncertified defects.

This agency has previously censured and imposed a partial ban on PIA fleet in 2007. The ban was restricted PIA’s aged poorly maintained Boeing 747 and A310 fleet of PIA. PIA now operates relatively new Boeing 777 and for most of them airline is still paying installments.

For an airline which does not seem to have funds to keep its existing fleet flying , it makes no commercial sense that priority was to arrange finances for inducting 5 more B-777 at a tag of $1.5 billion with options for 5 more of the same.

Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Azeem Daultana had informed NA on 22 Nov 2011, that PIAC Board had approved a 3-year Business Plan 2011-14 for induction of 6 Boeing 737 short range aircrafts but instead they have gone for more expensive new aircrafts for an airline which plans to reduce its long routes such as Chicago, incurring daily losses of over Rs7 Crore. Transparency International has termed the deal a gross violation of PPRA rules and alleged massive kickbacks over pricing.

It is worth mentioning that prolonged delays of PIA flights and disruptions in flight schedules have become a routine matter. Agitated passengers are seen quarreling with PIA traffic staff who are unable to explain delays. These recurring mishandling of passengers is drastically damaging credibility of national airline with disastrous consequences on revenue generation and creating problems to pay installments on existing fleet of Boeing 777 and ATR.

A recent example was observed on last Thursday when PK 757 operated by Boeing 777 was supposed to depart from Lahore at 11.30 am. The aircraft arrived from Karachi operating PK 302 with a technical defect that had a waiver under Minimum Equipment List approved by CAA and Boeing. In this case, the specified period for rectification expired as parts were not available.

Another B-777 which returned from Manchester needed service first but instead it was deputed for PK-303 carrying a VIP who happened to be MD PIA. Over 300 passengers were made to sweat it out in the Departure Lounge after having been checked, despite the fact that aircraft was unserviceable and should never have departed from Karachi, which is main maintenance base and all aircrafts departing from there should be serviceable and not get grounded at first stopover.

 A student bound for London Noorjehan Khan (PNR FDHCIC) complained that there was chaos and even telephone facility was not available to contact her family, who were desperate after hearing news of delay on television.

The young lady was exhausted and frustrated that passengers had to endure agony to wait for over 8 hours and finally they were told at 7 pm that flight would depart next day.

A passenger who was to catch a connecting flight to USA was very agitated and said “this airline should be fixing its aircrafts instead of buying more”. After a lot of protests passengers were allowed to leave Departure Lounge having suffered an ordeal of being cramped in a congested space for over 8 hours. The flight was rescheduled to operate after delay of over 24 hours on 2 March and departed at 11.45 am.

When contacted PIA spokesman Syed Sultan Hassan and media advisor, Tahir Khaleeq both the officials did not attended their cell phones despite repeated efforts.