Shaheen Air, regulator trade charges over flight

KARACHI: Shaheen Air Inter­national has accused the Civil Aviation Authority of discriminatory and hostile attitude.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, SAI chief operating officer Faisal Rafique said because of the careless attitude of the CAA the airline could not operate its inaugural Multan-Muscat flight early on Monday.

He said 300 passengers faced hardships and the airline lost around Rs15 million.

He said 150 passengers were booked on the flight NL678 / NL679. NL 678 was to depart from Multan early on Monday but the CAA barred it from doing so for reasons not yet known.

He said 150 passengers were shifted to Multan hotels and they were being taken to Lahore from where they would fly to Muscat and 150 passengers coming from Muscat would also travel in the same way — after facing a delay of around 24 hours.

He said SAI had applied to the CAA for Multan-Muscat route on March 20 and again on April 5, but received no reply so far. He said under CAA Rule 352 if no objection was raised or no reply was received, the application / permission was considered to be granted.

Mr Rafique said keeping that in mind, the SAI announced the flight and sold tickets and flight was also displayed at Multan Airport’s departure board, which showed that the CAA knew about it. But the flight was not allowed to depart, which had damaged the credibility and finances of the airline, he added.

He said SAI was put on hold for long periods regarding various approvals. Citing just an example, he said the SAI’s Regular Passenger Transport (RPT) licence, which was issued for four years, was put on hold and only interim approvals of 15/30 days was given and the airline was asked to fulfil documentation and procedures that were not even part of the process.

He said similar objections, which were the primary reason for delay in SAI’s RPT, were instantly resolved for the national carrier (PIA), which showed discrimination against a private airline.

He said the SAI aircraft were usually put on hold for days for inspections, hurting its revenues and causing additional expenses in the shape of parking charges and other fees. He said SAI aircraft were denied access to air bridges and electricity supply was suspended at check in counters at the airports.

He said earlier also the airline was denied to operate its inaugural flight to Manchester on the ground of not performing the proving flight, while it had performed the proving flight.

The SAI official agreed that the airline had to pay some dues to CAA, but as per CAA’s payment plan and letter, SAI’s payments were cleared up to the date, while the current relaxation in payment plan was requested due to the suspension of Manchester and Kuala Lumpur operations.

He said the private aviation industry was experiencing hostile environment since 2015 and CAA’s harsh policies targeting local private airlines were stifling their growth, benefiting foreign and national carriers.

Meanwhile, CAA spokesperson Aamir Mehboob said in a statement that SAI submitted the proposed Multan-Muscat flight schedule only a few days back which was still pending in light of non-fulfillment of CAA requirements. Airlines are not authorised to sell tickets before obtaining approval from the regulatory body.

He said the SAI had again resorted to non-payment of dues and CAA using its regulatory powers had to collect its dues, adding that all defaulters would be treated in the same way.

He said the renewal of SAI’s RPT had been pending for want of clearance from security agencies in the past. At present SAI had been granted 45 days for the acquisition of fresh RPT in accordance with the laws and regulations. Responsibility of fulfillment of requirements rested with the airline to ensure the continuity of its business operations, he added.

He said the CAA would not permit any flight operations without a valid RPT licence and insurance at the risk and cost of flight safety and passenger safety.

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