SINCE its inception almost two decades ago, Shaheen Air had been doing well. Until about a year and a half ago it had a fleet of aircraft rivalling that of Pakistan International Airlines and had expanded its operations to Europe and the Far East with modern Airbus airliners,
In the last 10 months, the airline’s operations started slowing down until it finally came to a halt — an entire fleet was reduced to a single aircraft.
The airline’s infrastructure, technical and non-technical staff have not been paid for three months. The airline owes millions to the support staff and services.
Unless there’s a miracle, the airline will have to file for bankruptcy or shut down. Once the airline goes under water almost 5,000 employees will be jobless. This includes about 60 ground engineers and technicians, around 200 pilots and 600 trained members of the cabin crew.
How did they get here?
First of all, the airline industry is currently not doing well in Pakistan. Government taxes and excise duty on airline revenues are exorbitant in Pakistan when you compare it with other countries in Asia and Gulf.
This leaves the airline with little room to bear losses or expand and as a result all airlines operating in Pakistan are running in a loss. If the government closes PIA tomorrow, it will save around Rs100 million daily.
The external factors are the advent of the Gulf carriers. It is unfair competition. These carriers have several of the latest aircraft and plenty of cash backup. To compete with them with fewer and older aircraft is an uphill task.
In the end I would like to point out that the collapse of Shaheen Air will be the biggest aviation disaster in the country’s history. Not only will 5,000 families lose their bread and butter, confidence in airline business will be shattered and cause irreparable damage to the development of aviation sector.
With regard to the airline business, the government should play its role and offer some relief which will benefit the country later. After all the US government came to the rescue of companies like Boeing and General Motors when they were in trouble.