The stories surrounding Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) provide non-stop entertainment in-flight and for those on the ground. Sarcasm aside, the stories about the national carrier make a mockery of the airline and by default, the country’s management. Under investigation is a security breach from January 20, in which PIA flight PK-743 from Karachi to Madina carried a whopping seven passengers in the extreme version of ‘upright position’ with the passengers standing up. PIA has certainly altered the definition of ‘standby air travel’ to adopt a more literal meaning. This is an absurdity on the basis of which the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the Civil Aviation Authority can reconsider the credibility of PA to fly. The neglect by the air staff must be scrutinised for endangering passenger lives.
It is too easy to get away with transgression of rules and laws in Pakistan and only a system of checks and balances can eradicate that culture. A misjudgment in this case will cause mistrust with our aviation authorities among travellers and rightfully so. In this case, the pilot’s statement claimed that upon discovering the standing passengers after take-off, landing back in Karachi would not have been in PIA’s interest due to the fuel dumping that would be required, a method used to reduce the landing weight of an aircraft in case of emergency landing shortly after take-off. Our experience with the way systems operate here tells us that where human health and safety are compromised, money is often involved. Ergo, by continuing the flight to Madina, fuel wastage was prevented and since the standing passengers were paying passengers, the flight shamelessly accrued higher revenue. This is reflective of the sorry state of affairs in Pakistan. Although this story might leave some aghast, it is not surprising behaviour from a government-run company in Pakistan where profits are prioritised above human safety. We must not become entangled in the blame game and apply pressure on the authorities to penalise the airline for its carelessness.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2017.
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