Pakistan International Airlines Will Drastically Cut Employee Numbers

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Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is looking to cut its employee numbers by half as a part of a new restructuring plan. The changes will also see the carrier cut unprofitable routes, limit fleet expansion, and possibly even outsource management. The last year has been difficult for the flag carrier as it reels from losses and safety bans in key markets.

Pakistan International Airlines Getty
PIA currently has 14,000 employees and a fleet of 27 aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Turnaround

According to Bloomberg, Pakistan’s cabinet has approved an ambitious turnaround plan for the struggling airline. The plan will see PIA cut its staff size by half from the 14,000 currently employed. Almost 2,000 employees have already taken up voluntary redundancy packages in the last year, which leaves nearly 5,000 more jobs on the chopping block.

In addition to cutting staff costs, the airline also plans to make sweeping changes operationally. In terms of the fleet, the airline plans to keep the size below 30 aircraft in the future as well. Currently, PIA operates 27 aircraft consisting of 12 Boeing 777s, 11 Airbus A320s, and four ATRs, according to Planespotters.net.

The plan means that the airline won’t be expanding further, as rumored. However, a switch to more fuel-efficient aircraft in the future has been suggested. The average age of the PIA fleet is currently 14.7 years, with all three types of jets aging rapidly.

Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A32
While a fleet modernization could be considered, an expansion is not on the cards any time soon. Photo: Getty Images

As a part of reducing losses, the carrier is also axing some of its long-haul routes. PIA will no longer serve Manila and Tokyo, and more routes could be axed in the coming months. Due to travel restrictions and safety bans, PIA’s international footprint remains limited.

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The aim

The government has “no grandiose plans to become like Emirates or Etihad or Qatar,” according to PM advisor Ishrat Hussain. Instead, the aim is to make PIA a profitable airline by 2023 by cutting costs and focusing on efficiency.

However, the changes do not stop at making PIA leaner in the future. The government is also considering outsourcing leadership to an external management team. Additionally, 26% of the airline could be up for sale once the balance sheet improves and losses are stemmed.

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Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777
PIA is hoping to look like a boutique airline rather than one with a large presence. Photo: Getty Images

Non-core operations like catering and engineering will be outsourced as well, and ownership assets like the Roosevelt Hotel in New York will be reviewed. Overall, the carrier is planning sweeping changes to revive its fortunes.

Lot of work

This isn’t the first time a restructuring plan for PIA has been proposed. Previous attempts have run into protests from employees and political pressure, leading to little implementation. However, a $220 million loss last year, a series of government bailouts to keep the afloat have all increased pressure to run around the airline.

The coming months will see this turnaround plan be implemented. If all goes well, the new PIA could be leaner and profitable in the next few years.

What do you think about PIA’s turnaround plan? Let us know in the comments!

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