LAHORE - Cash-starved Pakistan International Airlines to disband Sabre and to use Turkish HTIT Computer System from August 22, the reliable sources told The Nation on Monday.

According to the source, completely oblivious to problems faced by cash starved PIA, the Aviation Division and airline management with blessings of politically appointed Board of Directors, instead of focusing on fixing outdated In flight Entertainment System (IFE) and giving priority to procure essential spares to keep its fleet in air, has after its failed efforts to rebrand airline livery with Markhor, signed an agreement with HITIT Computer Systems, a Turkish company, on April 18, 2018 to replace existing Sabre Reservation system by August 22nd.

PIA scrapped its own Computerized Reservation System with Sabre, a subsidiary of American Airlines in 2007 using their technology to book E-Tickets over the internet, eliminating paper ticketing before IATA mandated deadline of December 31, 2007.

They said more than 125 airlines were currently issuing E-Tickets using Sabre GDS, with over 60 using Airline Solutions Interline Electronic Ticketing Hub, such as American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, JAL, Singapore Airlines, Continental, Delta, Emirates, Qantas etc. They also said problem with PIA -Sabre agreement were financial commissions negotiated and not with versatility of system. They further stated that there was no compatibility of the computer hardware and software currently in use of PIA and travel agents located all over the world, which would drastically reduce its already declining sales. PIA Check-In and Boarding system would also require major overhaul and replacement and so would the system which automatically informs passengers of changes and delays in schedule through cellphones etc, they added.

They went on to say that Optimum utilization of E-Ticketing through internet, both within Pakistan and on its international network, would have ensured direct credit to PIA through a local Pakistan bank declared as Acquiring Agent. It would have prevented pilferage at various internationally located booking offices, the sources said. They also said almost half of PIA international travel tickets were sold by travel agents and booking offices located abroad and all this valuable foreign exchange could have been directly remitted to Pakistan through E-Ticketing and offset financial crunch faced by national airline. Procurement and payment of essential spare parts in that case would have been made by Head Office with proper auditing. Airlines like Emirates, Singapore etc airline booking and sales are through internet in the range of 60 to 85% as compared to PIA which is under 10%, they stated.

They also told this scribe that in any case the current turbulent times faced by PIA, which survives solely on bailout by Federal Government, warrants cost cutting austerity administrative costs, optimum utilization of current fleet and recapturing its lost expatriate ethnic clientele which had been forced to switch over to other airline courtesy lopsided Free Sky Policies under garb of Open Sky where the concerned ministry (Aviation/Defence), CAA and the politicized PIA management facilitated Gulf based airline to capture local market.

They said irrespective of whether aviation division comes under MOD or separate Aviation Division, those at helm had given away traffic rights without safeguarding the local aviation industry.

The sources said PIA's problems were Free Sky Policy under garb of Open Sky granting liberal traffic rights to other countries severely impacting national exchequer and incurring have losses to Pakistan aviation industry. They said in 2006, all Gulf and Turkish airlines operated approximately 85 weekly flights from Pakistan which by 2016 had increased to 498 weekly flights. The Gulf carriers, they said, exploited the situation by expanding their operation to target Long-Haul/High Revenue 6th Freedom passengers to Europe, North America and Canada via their local hubs. With over 60-80% of their sales through E-ticketing via the internet all this revenue is directly credited to their bank accounts located in their countries of origin, they said.

It is estimated that almost $800-900 Million were being remitted from sale proceeds in Pakistan by foreign airlines. Now the Turkish Airline is being facilitated to benefit at cost of Pakistani airlines.

In 2013 the Turkish Civil Aviation withdrew 5th Freedom traffic rights for Pakistani airlines and in contrast Turkish Airlines was allowed to increase their operation from two points and 7 weekly flights to 47 weekly flights, under PPP led government. Similarly PIA's requests to lift restrictions on capacity for carrying 5th Freedom traffic between Beijing and Tokyo has been denied by Japan. Despite repeated requests the UK authorities have refused to grant traffic rights to PIA from Heathrow to New York.