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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

Probe, denial, blame game ensue over standing passengers in Pakistan flight

The state-run carrier denied the passengers were made to stand in the aisles for the journey.

world Updated: Feb 27, 2017 01:39 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Although the plane was allowed to carry 409 passengers, there were 416 onboard flight PK743 to Madinah. 
Although the plane was allowed to carry 409 passengers, there were 416 onboard flight PK743 to Madinah.  (Representational image)

Pakistan International Airlines, which is probing reports that seven extra passengers were allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia, has denied they stood in the aisles for the three-hour journey, reports said.

PIA spokesman Danyal Gilani said media reports to this effect “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 under investigation,” adding the airline had ordered a “thorough probe into it, and all concerned are being questioned”.

“PIA is committed to ensure the safety of the passengers and cannot allow any incident to happen which compromises safety,” the influential Dawn newspaper quoted him as saying.

The state-run carrier is also investigating why no member of the cabin crew reported the matter to the airline management after the completion of the Karachi-Madinah flight.

The airline is beset with a number of issues and in the past passengers have accused crew of overloading aircraft to accommodate staff and others, violating international aviation rules.

In this incident, which reportedly occurred in January, passengers with handwritten boarding cards were allowed on board after being adjusted by ground staff.

The captain and a cabin crew member blamed each other for the incident, reports said.

Captain Anwar Adil told Dawn that the passengers should not have been accommodated in the first place and if they were on the plane, the senior purser should have alerted him to this.

Adil said he learned about the extra passengers only after take-off, by which point it was too late to turn around as this would have meant dumping fuel in order to land safely.

“I had already left and the senior purser (of the cabin crew) did not point out extra passengers before closing the aircraft door. Therefore, after takeoff, immediate landing back in Karachi was not possible,” he said, adding, “It may be appreciated that immediate landing in Karachi after take-off required a lot of fuel dumping, which was not in the interest of the airline.”

The media report said that although the B-777 plane was allowed to carry 409 passengers, there were 416 onboard flight PK743 to Madinah that day. 

The official, computerised list of passengers did not mention the extra travellers.

Officials said the extra passengers were PIA staff members who boarded on concession tickets and were accommodated following pressure from the powerful employees union that operates in the airline.

Gilani initially did not respond to media queries but finally confirmed that an internal investigation had begun “and appropriate action will be taken once responsibility is fixed”.

PIA is currently headed by a German aviation expert who has promised to return the national airline to its glory days when it was considered one of the most efficient airlines in the region.

First Published: Feb 26, 2017 20:57 IST

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