New Baggage Policy In Pakistan Caused Controversy

The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has made a new policy that plastic wrapping on all pieces of baggage becomes mandatory, which Pakistanis sees as a form of “legalized corruption.”

According to the PCAA, all checked-in luggage of international and domestic passengers are to be wrapped with a plastic sheet at the initial stage of scanning at combined search counters of the Airports Security Force (ASF), the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) and the customs.

Furthermore, the agency told in the notice given to all Pakistan airports that the lastest mandatory policy is meant to be an extra layer of protection over the baggage.

Notably, the agency reasons that the plastic wrap prevents damage to the luggage when handlers have to move bags on and off planes swiftly.

The PCAA notice is also seemingly hinting at the prevention of baggage handlers from potentially committing theft especially in instances where most people leave their bags unlocked, which can ultimately reduce the rate of passengers blaming the airport management for theft when objects in their luggage go missing.

Additionally, the new policy will also increase compliance level with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the PCAA added. According to the ICAO, the safety of passengers and their baggage are two essential elements in the ranking of an airport or the aviation industry.

“For this purpose, new plastic-wrapping machines are being installed on an urgent basis,” Shahrukh Nusrat, director-general of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said Sunday.

Currently, there is at least a single machine in Pakistani airports that do the plastic wrapping on behalf of the passengers. However, per bag costs, each passenger Rs400 for large-sized bags and Rs200 for small-sized bags.

In light of the new policy, however, the PCAA is slashing that rate by almost 87% and is offering the service at a uniform price of Rs50 (about US$0.31) for all sizes of bags. It is reported that the revised service will begin at the Lahore and Islamabad airports, where authorities said that the revised rates would soon be implemented at all airports.

“Repairing charges are fixed at Rs50 as per clause 22 of the license agreement executed between Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority and M/S Air Ciro, the licensee shall at all times conform in all respects with provision of law and rules and regulations which may be applicable to the premises or to the business carried thereon under the licence for any lawful directions issued in respect therefore by any authority,” the PCAA notice read.

“It is therefore advised under clause 22 of the license agreement to ensure immediate compliance to the directives of the government. Furthermore, the said rate should be prominently displayed at your business premises for the convenience of the traveling passengers.”

Notably, the plastic wrapping service at airports is currently handled by Air Cairo whose current owner is none other than Air Marshal and Defense Analyst (r) Shahid Lateef.

Syed Talat Hussain, a senior journalist, and anchorperson, tweeted: “Shahid Latif, who is seen saving and protecting Pak through his analysis almost every night, will be making a lot of money. Of course, you will pay him as you will be forced to wrap your luggage at the airport. It’s compulsory even though it is optional across the world’s best-known airports.”

Meanwhile, another Pakistani traveler tweeted: “What is the logic for this requirement …if this isn’t legalized corruption.”

The stats available on PCAA official website indicate that the number of travelers during the fiscal year 2017-18 was over 1 billion. Out of one billion, more than 7.4 million people traveled on international flights, and almost 3.6 million took domestic flights. If calculated, according to the previous year stats, the total income earned will be over Rs 550 million, Pakistan Today reported.

On Latif’s social media, he admitted that he is currently managing the company from his late brother and told that his brother initially made the bid for providing the service in Pakistan airports and that they had followed a “complete process.”

As of the moment, the bid Latif was referring to is the 2017 contract it currently owns that extends until 2022.

CAA sources told The Express Tribune that they had sought fresh applications as per the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules, according to which the government institutions can again explore applications.

In other words, even though Air Cairo currently holds the contract for the existing plastic wrapping service in airports, the Pakistani government still can hire other competitors to provide the same service if it deems it needs more of which.

“For example, if a company supplies a gallon of water to a government office and now the office needs 10 gallons, it will have to give public notice for extra gallons instead of extending the order to the existing company,” they explained.

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