You may not expect an iftar hosted by PIA to be your ideal of fun but once the formalities were over and we got down to an informal round-table chat with the officials, we actually did have a fun time reminiscing the good old days of PIA and how that energy and feel-good factor could be tapped into again.
The iftar, held at the Pearl Continental Karachi earlier this week,Â was hosted to launch PIAâ€™s very own Mobile App, which PIAâ€™s CEO, Nayyar Hayat rightly said, guided the airline into â€œthe 21st century. No brand has a future unless it adapts to modern technology.â€ That adaptation of technology also included a proper entertainment system â€“ new seats had been purchased for international flights and would be implemented soon â€“ and online wifi streaming service was also underway.
â€œWeâ€™re back on the right track,â€ Mr Hayat said, addressing the audience. â€œThese are small but important steps.â€
â€œWe have come closer to the customers and that is the guiding principle behind improving any system,â€ he furthered, with a humble reality check on how PIA had deteriorated over the years. â€œSomewhere down the line we lost direction, which is the reason for our current state. And this (technology) is the first step to getting back on our feet; this is just the beginning.â€
Mr Hayat also realistically addressed the â€œexcess baggageâ€ that PIA was carrying around; there were years rather decades of reputation to fix.
â€œYes, PIA does have excess baggage and this App will expose us to feedback and criticism, which is always good and bad. But we see all feedback as positive. At the end of the day there is loyalty for PIA, and that will help it get back on its feet.â€
Loyalty definitely is the key word because no matter how harrowing the stories of flight delays are, PIA is always the first choice when flying domestic. I can honestly say that I have personally never really suffered delays on a PIA flight (let me not jinx that as I am flying to Lahore on Wednesday). Thereâ€™s something about PIA being our national carrier, after all, that resonates amongst people. I havenâ€™t taken the PIA flight to London but frequent flyers swear by the convenience of a 7-hour direct, non-stop flight. My son is leaving to study this August and I would want him to take the PIA flight between Karachi and New York, which I think is 16 hours as opposed to the 24 hours you spend when traveling Emirates.
The aircrafts do need cosmetic changes; that goes without saying. Seats should be more comfortable, cleaner. The cabin service also needs to be better and as a few people at the table pointed out, alcohol should be served as it is in Emirates and other airlines operated by Islamic countries: it’s one simple way to attract foreigners and let’s not pretend that people in Pakistan don’t drink. Then there’s is the need for flight entertainmentâ€¦the list is long. But itâ€™s not impossible to achieve if there is a vision and if that vision is implemented.
Letâ€™s just hope the take-off into this new initiative for a PIA makeover is smooth and without much turbulence.