Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), national flag carrier of Pakistan has proved to be a source of recreation and money for everyone. The passengers who flew on subsidized fares, the travel agents who earned fixed commission even when a flight took off half empty, the suppliers who sold everything from landing gears to paper cups, the jet insurers, the banks which lent money for the jets, aircraft manufacturers who made PIA the launch (first) customer of their newest variants, and politicians who took kickbacks to ensure that that happens, the government which taxed the tickets, and the employees who were fairly compensated but themselves over crowded the human resources capacity of the airline. It was only the airline and its shareholders who didn’t make money.
But was the airline even supposed to make money?
PIA is facing serious problems these days. Flight delays and cancellations have become the norm rather than the exception. The Pakistan International Airlines is also suffering from severe financial crisis.
It is, in fact, passing through a critical phase because of poor management, lack of maintenance, corruption and financial issues. There are complaints of terrible service, long delayed flights, emergency crash landings, cancellation of flights, and shortage of planes. These issues create frustration among the passengers. They feel fear and life risk while travelling through PIA.
Unfortunately, PIA is functioning with costs higher than returns. The airline charges are enormously high for both domestic and international flights. In past PIA claimed that increase in oil prices and devaluation of Pakistani currency were the major reasons behind its deficit. But now the situation has reversed but the PIA deficit still increases.
PIA in the past was known all over the world for its excellent performance and superior quality. That was the golden period for PIA. Now PIA is going in loss. A couple of months ago, rumors circulated that the increased frequency of emergency landings by PIA were being orchestrated to tarnish its image and reputation. Investigation should be carried out to find out the truth.
PIA should give primary importance to the safety of the passengers and make efforts to avoid any untoward situation. Several untoward incidents have occurred in the last decade. It is necessary to tackle such incidents seriously to minimise the losses.
Keeping in view these challenges as a last resort the Prime Minister has appointed Dr Musharraf Rasool Cyan as CEO of Pakistan International Airlines. Dr Cyan is a polymath having vast experience in the field of public sector management and reforms and training in economics. This choice seems to be addressing chronic mismanagement and absence of organizational leadership in PIA.
The revamping of PIA is not less than a gigantic challenge but it seems that Dr Cyan with his experience of 15 years in Pakistan and 12 years internationally, often in management and leadership roles, can do wonders for the airline and his country. His previous successful assignments have involved public sector reforms, management innovation, employee behavior change and economic development. He has a mix of world class quantitative and modern analytic skills as well as hands on management experience.
Dr Musharraf Rasool Cyan holds a PhD in Economics from Georgia State University and MSc in Management from University College London. He stood first in the nationwide competitive exam for civil service in 1990 and won gold medals for his performance in the management courses in the Civil Services Academy. His doctoral studies in economics focused on pricing, consumer behavior, taxation, investment in public assets, quantitative methods and analytical tools for efficiency and effectiveness.
Dr Cyan is a right person for the job as in his PhD he studied the competitive aviation industry and evolution of newer trends in the industry in North America. He has also trained in aviation management from Embry-Riddle University. This shall help him revamp the PIA infrastructure and ailing economy.
After his PhD, he worked at Andrew Young School of Policy Studies in the area of public finance. The academic institution is ranked among the top 5 seats of learning in public finance in the entire world. His work with public sector finance and investment models to choose long lived assets will be of particular relevance. However, given the low level of PIA systems, he will face an enormous challenge in using his skills to establish a grip on PIA finances, its losses and taking it to profitability.
PIA operates in a competitive aviation industry and has been losing business. It requires data analysis to plan routes and seat capacities, build and work with economic models to create robust flight networks and schedules, provide in-flight amenities according to changing customer preferences and work with financial models to decide on strategic direction and fleet expansion and optimization. Gone are the days when people with only flying skills could manage airlines. No wonder that in modern times, CEOs in major corporations and airlines come from a mix of backgrounds. PIA as an airline lacks any credible systems; employees work under low motivation environment due to absence of fair administration and sound management, there is no business plan for the organization. Financial management does not feed into strategic decision making. PIA, at this stage, requires sound business planning, financial management, market expansion, performance oriented employee management and upgrades in PIA systems. Dr Cyan possesses the right mix of credentials in these areas. He will have to use his knowledge and skills to lift PIA to high standards. Under his leadership, PIA may find the competitive edge to grow back into a competitive airline in the market. At the same time, he may face opposition to his endeavors from within and outside.
PIA requires a Manager like Dr Cyan, who is a top management professional with a proven track record of professional integrity and dedication to professional standards and competence. His experience in management, development and skills in organizational processes can help him uplift the image of our national carrier.One of his early challenges will be to stop the bleeding spots of finance in the PIA Corporationand stem the losses.
The government seems to have made this selection in response to the particular and deteriorating situation of PIA. In recent months, PIA has continued to be in the news, mostly for the wrong reason. It needs a firm hand at administration. It also needs to get back on a growth path. Dr Cyan possesses the credentials to bring both a sound and measured administration to PIA as well as use his training in economics to create a viable business plan for the airline. He will need to make bold departures from existing practices and make PIA into a modern airline, enabled by IT systems.
PIA needs to work as a business entity under performance oriented management. As a large entity it cannot survive without standards and discipline. Dr Cyan is well known in the civil service for his commitment to upholding standards and carrying out solid work. Given his experience, he should be able to bring about changes in the organizational culture and take out the negativism pervading in PIA at present. His greatest challenge will be to bring about attitudinal change in PIA staff and make it a service oriented organization. He will need to deploy his experience to carry out this behavioral change in PIA.
Dr Cyan has wide ranging experience in implementation of public sector programs in Pakistan, assuming leadership roles from early age and managing multiple agencies under his control. In addition, he has led design and implementation of public sector reforms in senior roles. From 2002 to 2005, he led implementation of decentralization reform at the federal level under a $300 million country-wide program, financed by the Asian Development Bank that included several federal ministries, four provincial governments and all local governments across Pakistan. As part of this program, he implemented a $30 million performance enhancement program in public sector organizations across the four provinces of Pakistan.
Earlier in his career, he worked in senior public sector management positions in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa, where as Chief Economist he spearheaded implementation and management of the province’s multi-billion rupee development program and supervised a large number of projects and programs in multiple sectors. In his district and municipal assignments, he honed his skills in human resource management. He commands respect in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa due to his dedication and high performance there.
In recent years, after completing his doctorate in economics, he has worked in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Egypt, Jordan, Macedonia, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, and the United States of America. These assignments have involved public sector reforms, behavior change and economic development. He has provided technical assistance to World Bank, Asian Development Bank, United National Development Program, USAID and other international organizations.
Keeping in view the portfolio of Dr Cyan and his 27 years of success, one can say that he must be representing Pakistan at UNO as observer or at least work at a top position in planning division, but as a patriot he has accepted a challenge being captain of PIA, he should be ready for a character assassination attempt by the culprits behind the downfall of our nations pride.
*Source: THE NATIONAL NEWS PAKISTAN