Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) once again came under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons as a tipsy pilot was apprehended in England while he was boarding an aircraft carrying 180 passengers.
Co-pilot Captain Irfan Faiz Chishti, 54, was taken into custody by British police at the Leeds Bradford International Airport on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol as he headed to fly a plane back to Islamabad on Wednesday.
“At about 10pm last night police were called to Leeds Bradford International Airport where they arrested an airline pilot on suspicion of carrying out an activity ancillary to an aviation function while impaired by drink,” the London police said according to AFP.
A PIA official said that Captain Irfan Faiz, who is the son of General Faiz Ali Chisti, was stopped by security officials at the airport during routine screening. “He appeared drowsy and was stopped on suspicion. Then they checked his alcohol level, which came out to be high.”
“The pilot has been suspended. The airline will take strongest action against him and all those involved in such conduct,” an airline spokesman said on Thursday. “The PIA will not provide any legal assistance in such cases.”
A strong-worded statement of airline said the PIA was not responsible for the misconduct of its employees and apologised to passengers of flight PK-776, which departed after a delay of 15 hours.
In England, legal alcohol limit is 20 milligrams in 100ml of blood – a quarter of that for car drivers. The pilot faces two years of imprisonment, if convicted.
The incident happened just a day after three male flight attendants of the PIA were arrested by Manchester police after a British woman who travelled on Karachi-Lahore-Manchester flight on Tuesday lodged a harassment complaint against them.
The PIA has also suspended the three stewards, the spokesman said.
The back-to-back incidents particularly the case of the pilot have unnerved Pakistan’s aviation officials.
“We are still reeling under the restrictions imposed by European Union on some of our aircraft seven years back,” said a senior airline official. “This is bad, very, very bad for us,” he added.
Captain Irfan Faiz was involved in a similar incident a couple of years back when he tried to operate an ATR plane while intoxicated.
Due to unavailability of any alternative captain, the flight had to make a night stop at Leeds. Later the flight departed with a delay of 15 hrs. The PIA in a statement regretted the inconvenience caused to its ‘valued passengers’. The pilot is still in the custody of British Police for further investigation.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2013.