Pakistan Airlines Chairman Resigns After Deadly Plane Crash

  • Saigol steps down on “personal grounds,” says PIA spokesman
  • One third of PIA’s daily flights affected after ATRs grounded

Pakistan International Airlines Corp. Chairman Muhammad Azam Saigol resigned almost a week after one of the company’s domestic flights crashed in the country’s north killing all 47 people on board.

Saigol, 65, who was appointed in June, decided to step down from his position at the state-owned national carrier on “personal grounds,” company spokesman Danyal Gilani said by phone on Tuesday. The company’s shares dropped 8.9 percent at the close of trading in Karachi, the most since March 30, 2015.

Last week, a PIA ATR-42 aircraft crashed near the village of Havelian as it traveled from the northern town of Chitral to the capital, Islamabad. The pilot reported engine failure and called “May Day” before losing contact with aviation control. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is seeking an independent investigation into the nation’s worst airline disaster since 127 people were killed when a Bhoja Air plane crashed near Islamabad in 2012.

PIA on Monday grounded all its 10 ATR aircraft for tests, affecting about one-third of the loss-making airline’s daily flights, according to Gilani. PIA also suspended international flights to Kabul, Muscat and Sharjah, he said.

Alternative Flights

“We are trying to manage things through alternative flight arrangements, though we have completely suspended flights to six domestic destinations,” Gilani said.

PIA has had a turbulent year after labor unions and staff, who number about 18,000, in February protested plans by the government to sell a 26 percent stake in the airline to private investors.

Moves by the management attempting to turn around the airline have been hobbled by the frequent labor strife and the company hasn’t made an annual profit in the past decade, while losing market share to Gulf carriers such as Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways PJSC. Losses more than tripled to 27.8 billion rupees ($265.3 million) in 2015 from 2010, director Amir Ali told lawmakers in January.

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