Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is in the news for all the wrong reasons.
January 31, 2021 – A Pakistan International Airways (PIA) flight PK-784 was held up in Canada after Ramzan Gul – a flight attendant was reported missing without informing his superiors. Gul had arrived in Toronto by PIA’s flight PK-798 from Karachi on January 29th and was supposed to return to Pakistan two days later on 31st January. The Pakistan International Airways (PIA) was totally in the dark why the said employee was reported missing on duty.
Just a day later PIA reportedly complained to the Canadian Immigration and Airports Authority that one of its air hostess who reached Toronto via flight-PK797 from Karachi mysteriously disappeared and did not report on duty for the flight back to Karachi. It is learnt that the air hostess later applied for Canadian citizenship.
This is not the first but fourth time in four years that PIA cabin crews have reportedly been absent without leave (AWOL) during international stopovers. Three of them were reported missing in Canada and never returned to Pakistan. In 2018, a flight attendant sought asylum in Toronto. A very similar incident occurred when another PIA flight attendant identified as Yasir disappeared from his hotel room during a layover in Toronto in July 2020.
Following these incidents, the PIA’s management is understood to have taken up the matter with the Canadian immigration authorities and issued strict instruction to ensure that its crew members does not illegally stay back in a foreign country.
As per the new standard operating procedure (SOPs) issued by the airlines to prevent its employees from going ‘missing’ pilots and cabin crews will have to hand over their passports to the station manager after customs and immigration clearance in a foreign country. These will be returned to them when they check-in and report back on duty for the return flight back home.
The new rules also prohibit the cabin crew from going out of their hotel particularly during the night.
Pakistan International Airways (PIA) has not been going through a bad patch since the tragic A320 crash just before touchdown at Karachi in May last year. The post-accident investigation revealed the dubious credentials of the pilots working for the airline. A number of them were found to be operating after submitting fake flying licenses. 150 of them were suspended till further orders.
Malaysia seized a PIA Boeing-777 at the Kuala Lumpur Airport for non-payment of aircraft lease dues.
It remains to be seen if PIA can clean its tarnished image and smuggle out of this mess.