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February 7, 2016

Passengers suffer as 42 PIA flights cancelled in Peshawar


February 7, 2016

PESHAWAR: The woes of over 5,000 passengers here continued to multiply as the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees’ strike continued on the fifth day on Saturday and the flights of the national flag carrier from the Bacha Khan International Airport remained suspended.

The strike forced the PIA to cancel 42 flights during the last four days and a number of the stranded passengers thronged the airport.

On Saturday, three flights were cancelled. These included PK 735 from Peshawar to Jeddah, PK 351 from Peshawar to Karachi and PK 894 from Peshawar to Kuala Lumpur.

The strike also forced the government to seek the help of a private airline to take the students of the Army Public School (APS) to Dubai to witness the matches of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) as the PIA flight scheduled to fly them was cancelled. The stranded passengers visited the offices of the private airlines operating from the provincial capital in the hope of securing reservations, but to no avail.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Zone of the PIA Officers Association has been holding their protest camp at the PIA ticketing and marketing offices on the Arbab Road in Peshawar Saddar. It was visited by a number of delegations of the political parties and civil society organisations to express solidarity with them.

Kifayat Ahmed, president of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Zone of the Association sounded positive about a solution to the standoff between the government and the PIA employees over the sale of the 26 percent strategic shares of the airline. He endorsed the strategy of their Joint Action Committee to “save the public sector airline.”

He said the ‘Open Sky’ policy of the government had caused the downfall of the PIA. “The government sold out flight routes to other airlines that led to the prevailing situation and is likely to adversely affect the jobs of over 14,000 employees,” he argued.

Kifayat Ahmed said the government planned to split the PIA into two separate entities - PIA-1 and PIA-2.

He claimed the PIA -1 would operate flight services, marketing, human resources and a part of financial affairs, while the PIA -2 would look after the engineering, technical ground support (TGS), stores, cargo, medical and catering.

Kifayat Ahmed said the government by promulgating the Compulsory Services Act intended to do away with the unions and association of the PIA employees, by they won’t allow it to happen.

He said they always sought talks with the government, but some of its advisors were adamant on spoiling all efforts seeking amicable solution to the problem.

He said the government was responsible for the woes of the passengers as it created the crisis.

He dismissed the impression that the passengers were provided the facility to use other airlines operating from the city on the PIA tickets. “The system did not offer any such facility,” he stressed.

The private airline, Shaheen Air, also approved the contention of the PIA officer.

Muhammad Asif Awan, senior manager marketing, of the Shaheen Air, said there were system limitations in putting the PIA’s stranded passengers on the Shaheen Air flights on the tickets issued by the PIA.

However, he said they had started additional flights from different destinations at the national and international level to cope with the rush of passengers.

Asif Awan said they had also flown 160 students of the APS to Dubai for watching the cricket matches of the PSL. “We will bring back the ASP students from Dubai on Monday,” he said.

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