In a press conference held to discuss inefficiencies in the workings of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Shaheen Air International (SAI) stated that Pakistan’s aviation industry is experiencing a hostile environment since 2015 especially for the private sector. The harsh policies targeting local private airlines are stifling their growth, while benefits are being reaped by Foreign & National carriers. The press statement issued mentions that SAI is always made to wait for long periods regarding approvals on a host of issues. The RPT license for 4 years was put on hold, while the airline was only given interim approvals for 15-30 days. The airline was asked to fulfill documentations and procedures which were not even a part of the process, but SAI completed all requirements in due time.
Furthermore, the same objections which were the primary reason of delay in SAI’s RPT license were resolved without hassle for the national carrier. Another example of delay in approvals by CAA is the SAI’s inaugural flight NL678/679 from Multan to Muscat, which was expected to depart on 23rd April, 2017, but was barred from operation due to a non-disclosed reason. Thepress statement mentions that an approval letter for this new route was sent to CAA on 5th April, 2017, however the approval was put on hold without assigning any reason on the letter.
Similar hurdle was created in SAI’s routes to Manchester and Kuala Lumpur. The airline was denied to operate the inaugural flight for Manchester on the grounds for not performing the proving flight.While SAI maintains that they are the only local airline to perform a proving flight for the authorities. SAI’s aircrafts are usually put on hold for 15 – 30 days for inspections, not only hurting revenues, but creating additional expenses in the shape of parking charges and other fees. Moreover, aircrafts are denied access to air bridges, while electricity supply is suspended to check-in counters at the airport.
The press statement mentions that the airline does own dues to the CAA, but it is normal aviation practice around the globe. As per CAA Payment Plan and Letter, SAI’s payments are cleared up to date, while the current relaxation in payment plan was requested due to the suspension of Manchester and Kuala Lumpur operations. It seems SAI is wrongly targeted by CAA, which has resulted in a significant dip in financial performance and has hurt the airline’s image amongst customers.