Pakistan News

‘Gulf-specific’ aviation policy questioned

‘Gulf-specific’ aviation policy questioned

LAHORE: Allowing Gulf-based airlines to operate to and from the ‘small’ airports of the country, some officials in the PIA and private airlines have questioned the government’s decision against the interest of its own airlines.

The government has allowed some Gulf airlines to operate to and from the Multan, Faisalabad and Sialkot airports.

In background interviews with Dawn the officials say the government has made the decision on its own without taking the PIA and private airlines operating here into confidence. They say the decision will benefit the Gulf airlines and in return nothing has been negotiated for the Pakistani airlines.

“The government should have at least ensured ‘fifth freedom’ rights from the Gulf countries to benefit the PIA in this deal,” a senior official suggested.

Fifth freedom rights enable an airline to carry traffic from its own country to another country and then pick up and drop traffic from the intermediate country to a third country.

“Why the aviation authorities are finalising deals on their own without debating the issue in the parliament,” he questioned and further argued that Pakistan was offering a number of airports to the Gulf airlines to operate while every Gulf country has only one airport. “They will take away our traffic and in return what we are getting – only landing rights charges (from them),” he asked.

Another official said: “The new aviation policy (which is yet to be approved) should recommend a review of service agreements with foreign airlines, especially those from the Gulf countries. It is necessary to review and rationalise frequencies and capacities in accordance with global ethics of reciprocity and bilateralism.”

“Unfortunately, we are allowing extra frequencies and capacities to foreign airlines. As these airlines are offering relatively cheap fares, they are also carrying Pakistani passengers through airports like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha to various destinations, especially to Europe and the USA. The Pakistani airlines are losing their market share,” he said.

According to an aviation expert, millions of dollars business can be diverted to the Pakistani airlines only if the service agreements of the foreign airlines are reviewed and rationalised. “Another foreign airline is carrying more and more passengers from Pakistan to the USA, the UK and other countries because of ‘relaxed’ service agreement,” he said.

Much is to be blamed on the open sky policy which allowed the foreign airlines to expand their operations in Pakistan without giving the same rights to the PIA (in their countries).

While prime minister’s adviser on aviation Shujaat Azeem was not available for a comment, spokesman for Civil Aviation Authority Pervaiz George told Dawn the agreement with the gulf airlines would benefit the country in terms of the usage of its small airports.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2015

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