India, Pakistan find common cause in shoddy national carriers
The two are nuclear-armed, arch rivals often threatening the stability of South Asia and with little common ground, but the sorry state of their national carriers puts India and Pakistan on the same pedestal.
India may be an emerging superpower and Pakistan seemingly always on the brink of a disaster, but the national carriers of the arch-rivals face similar woes.
Amid a major cash crunch and reeling under heavy losses, Air India and Pakistan International Airlines are struggling to continue operations — a shame for the state-run carriers which often are the defining images of their countries.
“Financially unviable” is the term attached to both carriers by lenders and both airlines have so far just managed to survive on taxpayer money.
The Indian government, battered by allegations of graft, and with the opposition snapping at its heels, can’t even afford to shut the airline down primarily on fears of a political backlash.
While Air India struggles with striking pilots, the state of publicly-listed PIA is worse.
On a flight from London to Islamabad, water flowed from the toilets through the aisles on a PIA plane, Reuters reports.
Opinions are divided on whether the state carriers should be saved by using taxpayer money, particularly when they are this inefficient. But closing down the airline will mean immense negative publicity for the governments.
For instance, Air India has grown from being a private airline owned by legendary businessman J.R.D. Tata to the top Indian carrier along with fattening middle-class aspirations, and the people of the country share a special bond with the airline.
Even when the airline has the worst on-time performance among Indian carriers, and flight cancellations do not surprise anyone any more, Indians still want to see the company survive.
The Indian government may soon approve a plan to restructure a whopping $4 billion of Air India debt at the cost of worsening asset quality of the lenders, but in Pakistan, with little financial muscle, PIA’s chances of a dramatic revival are thin.
People of both countries, who take supreme pride in their national carriers, hope for a sustainable solution to the woes, although the odds may suggest otherwise.