When we were young PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) was the only airline operating in the country. I distinctly remember traveling with PIA used to be so much fun. There was this great excitement when you flew by PIA. And for good reason, too. The staff was uber-friendly for instance, they gave good meals, they were always on time, kids got free gifts and even got to see the Pilot in the cockpit. Oh, and the air hostesses were really pretty, I mean really. The crew would always smile, they were tidy and everything was just perfect. Back then PIA was a standard, they had set a bar which other airlines found hard to follow and beat.
Fast forward to a few years….
A few weeks back I had to go home and I got myself booked on PIA. Man, I have to tell you it turned out to be the really bad experience. First off, the plane was late by a good two hours. I believe there was enough time for them to inform the passengers on phone or by SMS that a delay was expected. When we had long settled in the lounge after checking in and getting our boarding passes they announced a mere 20 minutes before departure time that the flight was delayed by an hour due to some technical reasons. After an hour they again announced a delay of one hour. What were we to do? Nothing, we just had more tea and coffee. After about an hour, they finally gave us the good news to board in the plane.
When I was boarding, I saw a young man of about 20 standing outside the plane arguing rather furiously with a PIA staff who told him to get off the plane as his suitcase was very big and could not be allowed to be taken in to the aircraft. The young man was vehemently pleading his case asking them why had the ground crew allowed to take him such an oversized traveling bag whereas the unfriendly staff stuck to his view and told the poor passenger to contact the ground staff. Courtesy, indeed is in short supply at PIA.
The flight was scheduled to fly at 8 pm and it was airborne a little after 10 pm. By then I was hungry, the stomach growled a little while I tried to suppress the ugly sounds lest the lady sitting next to me hear them. Another ten minutes and the sound around my tummy’s meat folds grew louder and more wretched. That’s when the Air hostess and a steward came with their trolley. They laid in front of us Meal Boxes, specially packed for PIA’s passengers! I fancied a chicken piece, some biryani, a kebab, some cutlets, a Pepsi, some pudding, hot tea followed by Coffee. But that was not to be. Instead the box contained one measly sandwich, packed in cellophane. It looked bad and tasted even worse. Jokingly I told the lady sitting next to me, it had toothpaste on it. She laughed a little and told me a similar saga. The last time she flew, PIA made an announcement that the Catering company had failed to deliver eatables so they were sorry they could not serve tea/coffee the to the passengers! I opted for a cup of tea, thank God it was hot unlike the air hostess.
One the return flight (again PIA) I happened to be sitting next to a crew member of PIA. I asked him about the condition of PIA, the poor guy was embarrassed, and then philosophically answered me that the condition of PIA was like that of any other organization in the country. There was over-staffing thanks to political governments favoritism. There was corruption. The plane to staff ratio was utterly high. The privatization was being opposed by some employees. He also told me that the “food” they serve in PIA doesn’t actually cost that much, it is being done to show that PIA is taking measures to save money and hence bring the airline back to its glory days I felt sorry for the poor guy but then I wanted to know the truth. He also told me PIA is considering hiring small aircrafts that do not gobble a lot of fuel and hence save some more money. I really hope they get back on their feet or is it wings?