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September 24, 2016

The skies are changing


September 24, 2016

A passenger wrote to me and said that traveling on PIA Premier was unlike travelling with PIA. It was refreshing to hear from this passenger, who praised our service, and yet simultaneously reminded us how much work we still have to do in PIA.

Few things would give one more satisfaction than rebuilding an institution that has lost its way along its journey that spreads over long decades. And that is exactly, what we at PIA are doing right now. I joined PIA in February this year and had one objective in mind -- to improve operations and profitability. Given the constraints that we have in PIA from resources to management, we have made an impact on the aviation scene of the country.

Our passengers happen to be one of the most loyal clientele you will find anywhere in the world. They continue to fly with PIA despite its shortcomings and issues, which it has been facing over many decades. Though various departments of PIA are striving to improve and give better results, our pride has been the Premier service, which was launched on August 14, 2016. It was a clear message stating that we are putting our passengers at the heart of our planning. Passengers who prefer to fly with us leaving many other options, should be given a better flight experience. 

Through PIA Premier, which has now completed its first month of service, we made a pledge to create a better overall product of PIA and improve its brand image. At the core of this, is the desire and direction given by Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, who wants to see PIA regain its lost glory and become one of the better airlines of the world. There was no better demonstration of this commitment than the moment when he came to see off the first Premier flight himself at Islamabad Airport.

PIA Premier was created to give an altogether new flight experience to our passengers. PIA Premier has a new aircraft, its business class has reverse herringbone flatbed seats and In-flight Entertainment (IFE) in both Business and Economy classes. It is according to a passenger’s description, “Awesome!” There are 250 channels available, which provide more than sufficient entertainment on a seven-hour journey. We have improved the menu to provide passengers with a better variety of hygienic food. With up to four menu options in economy and completely revamped food service in Business Class, we are trying to cater to every single passenger's needs.

If you are flying Business Class you can take up our free of cost limousine service from Heathrow to a destination anywhere within a 25-mile radius. If I say that our passengers loved PIA Premier, it might sound patronising but the data backs it up. We are seeing more than 98% load on these flights.

We did not just change the uniform of the cabin crew for PIA Premier but also embarked on a massive crew training programme that was done under the supervision of experts from Sri Lankan and  the five star Qatar Airways, in addition to our own trainers. After the successful launch of Premier flights from Islamabad and Lahore we aim to start the service from Karachi as soon as we get the second A330 aircraft.

But there is a lot happening on many other fronts in PIA where our engineers have just completed the first Check-C on an Airbus A320, which is a part of our drive to improve the condition of our existing fleet.

Similarly, we are upgrading the existing IFE system as well as seats of our Boeing 777s. We are aiming to increase flight frequencies on our key routes and at the same time opening new routes. Talks are ongoing with lessors and aircraft manufacturers to add new and modern aircraft to our fleet with the aim of doubling the fleet size in the next two years. We are also working to add more domestic and international flights and routes. In the next few months we are planning to start flights to Barcelona, Leipzig in Germany and Bangkok. This will add three countries to our list, where PIA had stopped flying due to fleet reduction and perhaps ineffective planning.

Just as the passenger who wrote to me about his great experience or as the cricketer Ahmad Shahzad spoke about PIA with passion and love, I repeatedly hear that, “PIA is our own airline and we are definitely going to support it.” This spirit motivates me and many others in PIA when we face challenging times. PIA is your own airline and we would like you to own it up as your own, by taking care of our aircraft like your personal property. I would love to hear from you about your experience and any feedback you have as your critique is something which will help us improve things further. PIA’s slogan is, “Great people to fly with," and if there is something that I cherish most, it is the people we fly with.



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