Plane disaster highlights airport inefficiencies

Published: July 31, 2010

Information counters set up at Benazir International Airport were woefully inadequate

ISLAMABAD: Misinformation was the word of the day when flight ED202 crashed into the Margalla hills near the federal capital.

Relatives of those on board the plane swarmed Islamabad airport on Wednesday and the following days, to get details about their loved ones or to pick up relatives of the deceased who were flying in from Karachi.

They had several complaints about authorities at the airport, and the ‘information’ counter that was meant to give people details about passenger lists and special flight arrangements.

As soon as news of the crash aired on TV, people tried calling the airport to confirm the tragedy. Not getting a response, desperate relatives rushed to the airport to get information.

Benazir International Airport had set up a public information cell at the Federal Investigation Agency counter to provide information, but the counter did not have on hand the kind of details relatives were looking for.

Ashraf Mehmood had come to the airport to collect his elder brother Nawabul Hassan who was coming from Karachi.  “We have been here since 9:00 am,” he told The Express Tribune. “The information cell has only assured that my brother’s name was on the list of the passengers who boarded the plane, and nothing else.”

Asif Zeeshan had come to pick up his 30-year-old cousin Naveed Chaudry, and said: “I have been waiting for the past two hours and there is no information, except the names in the list.”

Special arrangements made to fly relatives in from Karachi were not shared with all authorities either. When The Express Tribune approached the information cell and asked for information about special flights being arranged for friends and families travelling from Karachi to Islamabad, the staff at the counter denied having any knowledge of special flights. However, when a senior official at the Civil Aviation Authority was contacted, he confirmed that special flights had indeed been arranged and would arrive soon.

“Instead of helping the people and providing information themselves, the staff at the reservation and ticketing booth were telling families to consult the media,” said Asad Baig, a media representative.

On Wednesday, flight PK 308 arrived in Islamabad at about 6 pm carrying family members of the deceased. Relatives complained that they had to fly on Pakistan International Airlines because Airblue’s services were inadequate. Nasreen, who lost her son in the crash, said tearfully: “We had to come by PIA as Airblue was not cooperative.” Her sister Afroz added that: “First Airblue had announced they would give out ‘buy one get one’ free tickets for family members, but that did not happen and we came by PIA.”

Passengers were left to rely on the kindness of strangers, which was displayed in abundance. Outside Benazir International Airport on Wednesday stood a man along with four friends, holding up a sign indicating that he would voluntarily drive friends and family members of the deceased to their hotels.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2010.

Reader Comments (3)

  • Sarah Shah
    Jul 31, 2010 - 2:36AM

    All the runways of the airport did not have ILS installed on them which forced the pilot to go for a visual approach in low visibility conditions. If ILS was there the pilot could have gone for an automated landing even in zero visibility and in very bad weather. Not only that but the aircrafts and airports in Pakistan are not equipped with Mode-S/ADS-B system which could have warned the pilot that he was flying into a hill rather than towards airport. Pakistan must seriously spend some money and upgrade its airfleet and all of its airports immediately, before another bad and tragic accident happens.Recommend

  • Harun Khan
    Jul 31, 2010 - 1:51PM

    In addition to not having a Mode-S/ADS-B System, I think there was also the case of a ‘microburtst’; a condition where heavy turbulence and moisture in the air results in a heavy pull of gravity, especially over hilly areas. Despite our planes not being equipped to the fullest, we still instill retired pilots from other airlines. Recommend

  • Jul 31, 2010 - 4:30PM

    This was the sole responsibilty of Air Blue to transport the next of kin to the unfortunate site where their dear ones died for no fault of theirs. In any other country, the state would have ensured that the airline operate a special relief flight to take all the victims, provide them with hotel, food and transport etc. When the unfortunate Kathmandu crash occured, PIA operated a special relief flight to take next of kin to Nepal, and provided them boarding and lodging on airline expense. Mr Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is aware of his moral responsibilty, for he has served in PIA. Air Blue will be compensated for its loss of aircraft by insurance. Business ethics demanded of him to behave in a more humane manner. There are numerous private airlines, including low cost airlines which provide these facilities in case of an air crash. CAA and the Government Of Pakistan need to intervene and force Air Blue to meet its obligations.Recommend

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