RAWALPINDI: The operational failings of the flag carrier were highlighted on Tuesday when some 45 passengers with ‘confirmed’ tickets were not allowed to board due to a ‘shortage of seats’.
Pakistani international Airlines was unable to accommodate at least 31 passengers booked for Abu Dhabi and another 14 flying domestic from Benazir Bhutto International Airport.
The 31 Abu-Dhabi bound passengers were kept in wait at the airport for hours before eventually being told that the flight had departed. The passengers, mostly from various parts of Punjab and working as labourers in the Middle Eastern state, were later given accommodation in a local hotel.
Muhammad Ramzan, an Abu-Dhabi bound passenger, said he received a call from the PIA office asking him to reach the airport two hours ahead of his flight.
“I got here on time but was told to wait outside. Later I was informed at the immigration counter that we cannot board the flight due to a shortage of seats,” he said.
Similarly, passengers on a domestic flight number were also given the same excuse. They were also only apprised of the situation after the flight had departed.
When the passengers started protesting, citing risks to their employment status abroad, PIA officials closed its office and counter at the airport.
The passengers also received calls from the operation and schedule section of the PIA Karachi office requesting that they can go to Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, from where they would be accommodated on alternate flights. But the passengers refused the offer.
An airport official said the operation and schedule section had sent an Airbus A320 instead of an A310.
“The A320 is smaller than the A310. A320 has 150 economy seats and eight business class seats while, an A310 layout can accommodate 195 economy class passengers and 12 in business class,” said the official.
Officials at the Operation and Schedule section said the passengers were not allowed to board due to fear of overloading.
To solve the issue, PIA officials contacted the employers of the passengers and informed them about the flight delay, after which the passengers called off their protest.
The domestic passengers were provided with seats on a flight at 9am on Wednesday, 14 hours after their original fights.
The Abu Dhabi-bound passengers will be flown to Karachi and will be accommodated on a flight that leaves on Thursday evening.
BBIA Station Manager Aijazullah said that the passengers had been given accommodation at a hotel. He did not comment when asked who was at fault for the smaller plane being sent to Islamabad.
He confirmed that the domestic passengers were accommodated on a later flight and said the Abu Dhabi-bound passengers will be flown to Karachi and will board a flight on Thursday.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2014.