Lahore: PIA to Sell its JFK, Chicago Slots to Turkish Airways

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Pakistan International Airlines is selling its take-off and landing slots at John F. Kennedy Airport New York and O’Hare International Airport Chicago completely to the Turkish Airways (TA), The News has learnt.
A top PIA official on condition of anonymity confided to this correspondent, saying that in addition to the recent MoU signed by PIA with TA which dents PIA’s business in more than one way, PIA is selling its take-off and landing slots at New York and Chicago completely to the TA. The deal is under wraps for now and also means that in case PIA wants to buy back these slots it would need to pay many times the amount paid to the TA, the official added. The PIA board of directors however is yet to be taken into confidence on the selling of slots issue.
According to statistics available with The News, PIA gets around 145,000 passengers annually for these two destinations which will be compromised in accordance with this new deal.
PIA’s foreign offices in New York and Chicago will also either be consequently shut down or the staff at these offices willbe downsized to one to two persons operation following the implementation of this decision, the PIA official added. The PIA managing director in a press statement said, “the leaders of employees association had categorically stated that they will not talk to the media till next meeting scheduled for January 18, 2011. It is a pity that despite briefing them on every aspect of the proposed alliance and addressing all their concerns, yet they repeated the same concocted stories which are far from facts”.
A meeting with all the major departments and employees associations such as Pakistan Airlines Pilot Association (PALPA), Society of Aircraft Engineers of Pakistan (SAEP), Aircraft Technologists Association of Pakistan (ATAP), and others was held at the headquarters Monday.
The heads of these employee associations while talking to The News, denied PIA MD’s claim that he had addressed all their concerns and said the managing director failed to address the reservations expressed by the officials and sufficed by asking everyone to trust his judgment and that the positive aspects of this deal will be discovered once it is allowed to take effect. The MD was advised in the meeting that PIA should not totally close operations at New York and Chicago and should operate at least one of its own flights. The MD rejected this proposal which reinforces the information given by the PIA official that the slots for these destinations are being sold to the Turkish Airlines.
The PIA managing director held a meeting with the SABER Reservation Systems officials to brief and convince them over the issue which too did not reap the desired level of confidence MD was looking for. Sources have also revealed that after the objections highlighted by the media regarding this deal, defence ministry ranks too are not positive regarding this probable agreement. The negative effects of the venture with the Turkish Airways do not require rocket science to understand. PIA’s decision to fly its passengers on TA from Istanbul is a mind-boggling scenario as all international flights of the TA operate from 6 am to 11 am their local time. This means that all the international flights of PIA outbound to Istanbul will need to leave at night to adjust to the schedule of the TA. It is an open secret that majority of the passengers prefer to travel during the daytime. PIA has agreed to give all its US operations and most of its European passengers to the TA. However, the clauses in the MoU regarding TA giving its passengers to PIA for eastbound operations are ambiguous and do not clearly rule out TA flying direct flights to the far-eastern destinations.
PIA’s Central in charge Public Affairs and Deputy General Manager Passenger Sales Mashood Tajwar said the Turkish Airways owns its own slots at the New York and Chicago airports. However, with the volume of passengers increasing after PIA provides TA its US-bound passengers, if TA requires additional slots PIA will sell its slots to them, he added.
Tajwar said the agreement with TA is at the RoD (Record of Discussion) level and has not even reached the extent of a MoU; therefore, it would not be wise to consider this deal as settled. Agreement will only be reached after the relevant authorities of both the countries validate the same, he cleared. He went on to say that the alliance with Turkish Airways may act as a step for PIA towards becoming member of Star Alliance, the largest airline grouping in the world, PIA spokesman said. He termed the recent statements by leaders of the employees associations of PIA published in the newspapers as misleading.

(Published in Daily “The News” on January 14, 2011)

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