Lahore: Over 600 international and domestic flights of Pakistan's flag carrier have have been cancelled since the suspension of operations last week due to a countrywide strike by its employees over the government's plans to privatise the troubled airline.
"More than 600 international and domestic flights of PIA have been cancelled during the last five days or so. However, two PIA flights left for Jeddah today to bring back stranded passengers," Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) spokesman Daniyal Gilani told PTI today.
He said the employees have been requested to resume duties and save the national carrier.
"Two planes will bring back 800 passengers stranded in Jeddah for the last few days," he said.
PIA had earlier requested Saudi Airlines to ferry its stranded passengers back.
But it had run only one flight and brought back just 300 passengers, as a result thousands of PIA passengers faced great inconvenience because of the strike.
The PIA management had signed an agreement with Saudi Airlines and Eithad Airways as well as private airlines, Air Blue and Shaheen Airlines, to facilitate travel by its passengers with confirmed bookings.
But these airlines are reportedly not honouring the commitment, the PIA spokesman said.
The employees, who have been protesting for the last several weeks to stop the government from privatising PIA, suspended flight operations last Tuesday following the deaths of two senior employees allegedly in police firing.
Police filed a murder case against ruling PML-N senator Mushahidullah Khan, information minister Pervaiz Rasheed, and adviser to the prime minister on aviation Shujaat Azeem.
The FIR said the firing was a "well-planned conspiracy" hatched by Mushahidullah, Rasheed, Azeem and other senior members of the PIA management. PIA has some 19,000 employees.
The government says the carrier is facing an accumulative loss of Rs 320 billion. It intends to give a 'golden handshake' to at least 50 per cent of its employees who it says were hired on political grounds. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said the government will not bow to any unlawful and unjustified strike.
"We want everyone, including PIA employees, to work for the betterment of the national flag carrier. If some parties are supporting them for the sake of politics, it's not fair," he said adding that the government would not be blackmailed by the protesting employees.