Sarwar Kamal, Chitral
The people of Chitral are expressing their displeasure, frustration and resentment as far as the costly airfares of PIA is concerned. Actually, we are paying the most costly charges in our domestic aviation industry. If we compare our airfare charges with that on other routes of PIA it is crystal clear that there is an unprecedented and huge difference while the private operators are offering much cheaper fares.
The masses in Chitral are demanding that this discriminatory policy should be changed on an urgent basis in the best interest of the public.
In this article we will try to cover and highlight all aspects and factors contributing to this unpleasant scenario. Similarly, we will propose an idea, recommend and present a solution to the Civil Aviation Authority, PIA and the central government to overcome this crisis.
There is a wrong perception among the masses that PIA as a single operator is abusing our rights by impending and obstructing the way of other private operators creating its own monopoly in routes like Chitral and as a result due to lack of competition it is exploiting this situation in its favour, which is, unfortunately, not the case. I am not here to defend PIA but as a writer it is my moral and ethical responsibility to paint the exact and right picture.
At the same time as a citizen I also admit categorically that PIA being our state funded operator should take all steps in order to provide us maximum relief and facilitation. Chitral included in the socioeconomic route of Pakistan. The other socioeconomic routes are Gilgit, Gwadir, Pasni, Turbat, Jiwani and Panjgur.
The concept behind the socioeconomic route is that all operators (both state run and private) shall carry out their operational flights to the most remote parts of the country and thus give them an opportunity of connection with the major airports, ultimately giving them an access to the whole world regardless of any seat and low profit. Thus the socioeconomic routes connect the areas and enable to have commuting opportunities.
According to the 2015 national aviation policy, both state funded and private airlines are to fly on socioeconomic routes. It is mandatory and they are bound to provide their services on these routes but unfortunately only PIA as our national flag carrier is providing us this service. Chitral and Gilgit routes are supposed to be the most tricky, difficult and Challenging routes where weather can change in minutes. The private operators are not taking any chances and risks in this regard. They prefer the easy and smooth routes ie Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Sialkot, UAE and Suadi Arabia. These private operators are paying some amount of money as a penalty to the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan for ignoring these socioeconomic routes. Unfortunately, the role of the Civil Aviation Authority is very weak, apologetic and disappointing in this regard as a regulator body. As a result, we are paying a heavy price. The authority should adopt a smart strategy and policy to ensure the participation of these private operators on these remote parts of Pakistan. As a regulator, the CAA should impose heavy penalties on these private operators for ignoring these socioeconomic routes. At least the authority can try them on these routes on a rotational policy one by one.
According to PIA, low seat occupancy rate on Chitral route is the main reason resulting in pernnial raise in airfare charges as a result they are overcharging us to minimize their loss margin.
In my humble opinion, this logic presented by PIA is against the letter and spirit of the definition of socioeconomic route. According to the definition, all operators both state funded and private are bound to fly to these special routes where seat occupancy and loss profit is secondary. We the masses should pinpoint and highlight this important point in our support. Public institutions like PIA,Steel mill Karachi and PIA are white elephant for our economy and country. Each year the federal government is injecting billions to these collapsing institute.
It doesn’t make any huge difference if the people of these socio-economic routes will be given a relief in this regard.
At last we the people of Chitral are recommending and presenting a solution for this crisis.First PIA should announced a drastic reduction in its airfare charges ie 5000/= per passenger. In this way maximum number of people will be motivated and encouraged to take the aerial journey option as a result maximum people will benefit from this offer which will also address seat accupancy rate issue.Secondly PIA should change its strategy of flight operation to Chital.PIA instead of coming directly from Islamabad airport to Chitral(Islamabad to Chitral via Peshawar best option) it should land on the way to peshawar airport for a brief time in order to accommodate maximum number of passengers.
China as a giant is expanding its trade and products to the whole world.Pakistan has to play a key role in this regard. Our CPEC project is a game Changer for Pakistan. Nowadays we have pro Pakistan regime sitting in Kabul.Everlasting peace and stability in Afghanistan is in the best interest of Pakistan and vice versa. Chitral strategic position has great importance in the perspective of CPEC.Chitral offers the shortest route both by road and aerial to the central asian republics(according to a survey it tooks only 25 minutes to land the Tajik capital Dushanbe from Chitral airport)This will provide and open us new vistas of opportunities. Inshallah I am very optimistic in near future Chitral will be the hub of regional airflow traffic center.