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Passengers forced to stand on Pakistan flight carrier

  • Published at 09:16 pm February 26th, 2017
  • Last updated at 10:19 pm February 26th, 2017
Passengers forced to stand on Pakistan flight carrier

Pakistan's national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), allowed seven passengers to travel standing in the aisles all the way to Saudi Arabia last month, prompting a probe into the serious breach of security regulations by Pakistan’s loss—making national carrier, according to media reports.

As many as seven passengers aboard the Boeing 777 PIA flight PK-743 (Karachi-Madina) on January 20 were forced to stand throughout the over three-hour flight after the airline boarded excess passengers, the Dawn reported.

The PIA management appears to have taken this lightly as no action has been taken against those responsible for the bizarre incident, the paper said. PIA spokesperson Danyal Gilani said the matter was being investigated.

The internet has been flooded with memes of Pakistan's national carrier.

PIA denies the allegation

PIA said Sunday it would investigate allegations that a plane flew from Karachi to Saudi Arabia carrying seven extra passengers, but denied they stood in the aisles for the three-hour journey. The national carrier's spokesman Danyal Gilani said media reports that some passengers travelled standing “are exaggerated and baseless. It is not possible for anyone to travel like that in an aircraft, regardless of the duration of the flight.” But he said: “The matter pertaining to the travel of more passengers than the booked load...is under investigation,” and the airline had ordered a “thorough probe into it, and all concerned are being questioned”.

A serious air safety breach

The report said allowing seven passengers to travel by standing all the way to the destination constituted a serious air safety breach as in the case of an emergency, passengers without seats would not have access to oxygen and could also cause congestion in case of an emergency evacuation.

The boarding passes issued to the extra passengers were handwritten and not computer-generated, sources said. The computer-generated list, provided to the aircraft crew by the ground traffic staff, did not mention the excess passengers, the report said.

Sources said that the senior air hostess, Hina Turab, maintained that she informed the captain that there was chaos in the cabin because the passengers were over and above the configuration, but the captain told her to “adjust” those passengers as the aircraft was on the taxi way.

Captain was informed

Captain Anwer Adil, who operated that flight, maintains that the computer-generated sheet did not show excess passengers. He said: “After take-off when I came out of cockpit, Turab informed me that there were some extra people who had been boarded by the traffic staff. I also noticed some people were those who were categorically refused jump seats by me at the check-in counter before the flight. I had already taken off and the senior purse did not inform me about extra passengers before closing the aircraft door. Therefore after take-off, immediate landing back at Karachi was not possible as it required lot of fuel dumping which was not in the interest of the airline,” he said.

Protocol necessitates that in such cases, the aircraft should be brought back to the terminal and excess passengers offloaded, sources said. Only then can an aircraft resume its flight.

Interestingly, the crew of the flight conveniently did not mention the incident in their reports at the end of the journey or after returning to Karachi, the newspaper said.

A sinking ship

Pakistan's national carrier was once a symbol of the country’s engineering and aviation prowess but now suffers from huge debts, an ageing fleet and a string of corruption scandals.

The airline has accumulated liabilities of over Rs 300bn and an additional loss of over Rs 5.6bn is being added to this amount every month, the PIA management told a Senate committee at a briefing last month. The panel was also informed that the airline earned around Rs 7.5bn rupees a month while its expenses were over Rs 13.14bn rupees.