Pakistani Airlines Under Fire For Domestic Flight Cancellations

Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority is cracking down on high cancellation rates among local airlines. The PCAA has issued notices to four airlines regarding recent unacceptably high levels of domestic cancellations.

The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority is calling out four airlines for recent high levels of cancellations. Photo: Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority

Pakistan’s airlines cancel domestic flights in favor of international charters

In the first 18 days of October, four Pakistani airlines canceled 383 (or 33.4%) of 1,145 scheduled domestic flights. As a result, Pakistan International Airlines, Serene Air, Airblue, and Airsial all received please explain notices from the PCAA.

“It has come to our notice through various public complaints/feedback forums that airline operators engaged in the operation of scheduled domestic flights within Pakistan have been canceling confirmed scheduled domestic flights,” said the PCAA on Twitter,

According to The Nation newspaper, the airlines canceled their scheduled domestic flights to divert aircraft for use on international charters.

On raw numbers, Pakistan International Airlines was the worst offender, canceling 130 (31.1% out of 417 domestic flights in the 18 day period. Serene Air canceled 117 (46.8%) of its 250 flights, Airblue canceled 86 (32.9%) out of 261 flights, and AirSial pulled 50 (23%) out of 217 domestic flights.

Moving to prevent a recurrence, the PCAA formally reminded the four airlines their right to fly depended on them meeting reliability benchmarks. The PCAA said canceling scheduled flights to divert the aircraft to operate an international charter was unacceptable.

“Cancellation of domestic flights, if any, will only be made consequent on technical reasons or force majeure circumstances,” says the PCAA.

The PCAA pulls permission to operate international charters

The PCAA asked the four airlines to undertake that domestic schedules would not suffer in favor of operating international charters. Over the immediate term, the PCAA has stopped granting the airlines permission to operate international charters and will make airlines request permission to operate them on a case-by-case basis in the longer term,

“Prior to requesting any permission for international chartered flights, airline operators will submit an undertaking to the PCAA that domestic flight schedule approved for any ongoing scheduling session will be operated with a minimum flight regularity and punctuality of 90% and 80% respectively.”

The PCAA acknowledged operating international charters was often more profitable than flying domestic sectors, but the agency notes Pakistani airline operators have an obligation to Pakistanis.

“Commercial interest in operating international flight operations may be enticing in the current times, but it is the duty of the PCAA to uphold the spirit of public convenience and necessity,” the PCAA said.

“In the same connection, an adequate balance between domestic flight operations and international flight operations is mandatory.”

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) had the most calations in the first half of October. Photo: Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority

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Pakistanis welcome the PCAA’s move

There are a distinct set of challenges facing airlines flying in Pakistan. The market is considered to have enormous potential but is plagued by problems, including security issues, safety problems, and poor infrastructure.

For the average Pakistani, relatively weak competition among airlines operating within the country not only pushes up ticket prices but also causes problems with punctuality and reliability – issues that register on every airline passenger’s radar.

The action by the PCAA appears to be well received by the Pakistani public. “The CAA’s action is much appreciated,” one person posted online. “Hopefully, it is a firm step.”

Another person suggested airlines get fined for canceling without a valid reason, saying until the airlines get penalized, they will keep canceling flights.

“It’s a great initiative,” said another.

What do you think? Was the PCAA right to step in here, or should Pakistan’s airlines be allowed the chase charter revenue at the expense of scheduled services? Post a comment and let us know.