Monday , October 23 2017

PIA’s German CEO barred from leaving country

Bernd Hildenbrand, chief executive officer of Pakistan International Airlines Corp. (PIA), speaks during an interview in Karachi, Pakistan, on Wednesday, July 27, 2106. As the new head of PIA, Hildenbrand faces the biggest challenge of his career: getting the state-owned carrier to think about the future instead of living in the past. Photographer: Asim Hafeez/Bloomberg



Pakistan barred the first foreign national chief executive of the state-owned national airline from leaving the country as the government begins an investigation into a plane-lease contract. Bernd Hildenbrand, the German head of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Corp., has been put on a so-called exit control list and the nation’s anti-graft Federal Investigation Agency has been directed to probe the national carrier, Interior Ministry spokesman Sarfraz Hussain said without giving details.
The order comes as the nation looks to turnaround the carrier that hasn’t made a profit in more than a decade by adding planes and increasing flights on profitable routes. Hildenbrand has had a turbulent reign dealing with a plane crash in December that killed 48 people on board and labor unrest after the government attempted to sell a stake in the airline. “It is the prerogative of any government to keep an eye on spending being done by entities owned by it, but one expects this to be done in a reasonable way,” Hildenbrand said by phone on Friday. “They don’t seem to have much understanding of the aviation leasing business so things can be explained to them. If they have doubts over my integrity they are welcome to interrogate me.”

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Officials at the German consulate in Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial capital, didn’t immediately comment when contacted.
Hildenbrand, who is based in the city, said he only found out about his travel ban
from press reports and that nobody in the
government has approached him.
The investigation into the airline and its chief executive comes as the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is trying attract foreign investment and is shepherding about $55 billion in loans and financing from China to fund badly needed infrastructure projects.
“Putting him on the exit control list is going a bit too far since he has not been proven guilty yet,” Shaukat Tarin, a former Pakistani finance minister, said. Sharif’s administration has also made stalled attempts to turn-around bloated state entities as part of a $6.6 billion International Monetary Fund reform program that ended in September.
PIA wants to increase its fleet to 50 over two years from 37, said Hildenbrand, who believes the graft probe will hinder the process.
“Of course what is happening right now is not helpful for us, this damages the name of PIA a lot,” Hildenbrand said. “We have to go through a tender process. We don’t know who will participate.”

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epa05111049 (FILE) A file photo dated 14 July 2005 showing Delta Airlines passenger Akin Metzger, (L), looking at his boarding pass as baggage handler Alford Russell waits to check him in at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Delta Air Lines on 19 January 2016 reported a record-breaking 4th quarter, with adjusted pre-tax income of 1.45 billion USD, up 42 per cent from the previous year. Delta said the positive results were in part because of lower prices for jet fuel throughout the full year 2015. The adjusted fuel expenses dropped in 4th quarter by $726 million compared to the same period in 2014.  EPA/JOHN AMIS

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