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From Bizarre Disappearances to Flight Bans, Controversies Mar Pakistan International Airlines

Flight crew members and law enforcement personnel prepare to board Haitian migrants onto a chartered airplane at San Antonio International Airport, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, in San Antonio.InternationalIndiaAfricaAneela RashidPakistan International Airlines (PIA) was once known for its technical prowess and long flights to far off destinations, but in the past decade, the company has seen a decline in terms of both safety and finances. What is going on with PIA and its reputation in the aviation world?A Pakistan Airlines flight attendant disappeared in Toronto in October this year, which marks the fourth such incident in less than five years. In 2018, a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight attendant went “missing” during a layover in Toronto, and didn’t show up for the return flight. The same thing then happened in 2020 and 2021.Pro Pakistani reported that the PIA crew had a layover in Toronto earlier last week: the crew reached Toronto on flight PK781 and during the layover in a hotel, a flight attendant named Yasir allegedly went missing. When contacted by the airline, Yasir told the officials that he was going to another city, at which point he became unreachable.PIA’s general manager of flight services was informed and he announced that the authorities had launched an investigation into the matter and that action would be taken against the flight attendant. The Canadian authorities have also been informed.

When someone goes missing, the worst usually comes to mind. However, in Yasir's case, it sounds like he simply had no intention of returning to Pakistan. It is believed that the previous flight attendants who went missing in Toronto also just chose to stay behind and start a new life in Canada.

Although what Yasir and others did is illegal and negatively impacts the reputation of the airline, there is no denying that PIA is going through a very tough time at the moment and it must not be easy working for it.Check out the latest scandals and controversies surrounding the airline.

Yes to Panties, No to Naps!

In September, PIA released a memorandum telling both its male and female cabin crew members to ensure wearing “undergarments during off-duty hours.”The advisory added that “casual dressing” during off hours leaves a poor impression on viewers and portrays a negative image of not only the individual, but also of the organization.Needless to say, the memo went viral online, with some people poking fun at PIA and the absurdity of the instructions, as they were deemed “oddly specific.”Have there honestly been multiple incidents that involve PIA crew members roaming around not wearing undergarments, and has it somehow reached the notice of the management?As far as the airline’s crew is concerned, Pakistan International Airline (PIA) was ranked seventh in the list of Best Staff in South Asia in 2022, issued by Skytrax, a UK-based company that rates and reviews airlines.Indian Spicejet Flight Makes Emergency Landing in Delhi as Smoke Fills Cabin — Video2 July 2022, 05:58 GMTIn another bizarre incident, a PIA pilot, identified as Captain Shahzad Aziz, found himself in a controversy after having invited a young Chinese woman into the cockpit during PIA Flight PK-853, according to a Geo News report.The woman reportedly stayed in the cabin for about two hours and left only after landing. At some point, the woman was reportedly also alone with the pilot in the cockpit. As per aviation regulations, unauthorized persons are not allowed inside the cockpit during the flight, as it can endanger the lives of all the passengers. Naturally, the incident provoked some backlash against PIA.The above incident occurred only two weeks after another PIA pilot was accused of taking a more-than-two-hour nap during an international flight!A flight from Islamabad to London was left in the hands of a trainee pilot, while the senior pilot was photographed sleeping in first class, covered with a blanket.Despite the evidence, PIA was reluctant to investigate the incident, but eventually suspended the sleepy pilot from flight duty.Such incidents should not be taken lightly, as flight protocols are there for a reason and must not under any circumstances be ignored, especially when the airline does not have the “safest flights” track record.Since 2000, Pakistan has witnessed 10 deadly air crashes, although not all of them were PIA aircraft.PIA has had three major air crashes in the past decade. It has also faced a ban on flying to the US, UK, and the EU following a “fake licenses scandal.” The airline also faced a major debt crisis and hundreds of employees have had to be laid off.

Air Crashes & License Scandal

On December 7, 2016, a PIA ATR-42 aircraft crashed enroute from Chitral to Islamabad. The crash killed all 48 passengers and crew, including famous Pakistani singer Junaid Jamshed.On May 22, 2020 a PIA Airbus A320 crashed near the Karachi Airport flying from Lahore. A total of 91 passengers, besides 8 crew members, were on board the aircraft. Only two people survived.It was determined that this crash was due to human error, with no technical aircraft faults having been found upon investigation.According to an aviation report, neither the pilots nor the air traffic controllers followed proper protocols, although most of the blame was placed on the pilots. Some points in the report suggested that the pilots had exhibited “overconfidence and lack of concentration” and that they “ignored instructions of the air traffic controllers.” The data from the black box allegedly revealed that the pilots were discussing corona pandemic throughout the flight and were not focused.Following the tragic incidents, which left the country in mourning and Pakistanis apprehensive of boarding a PIA plane, another report shook the country when it was revealed that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots had fake licenses.In June 2020, Pakistan’s Minister for Aviation revealed that 262 of 860 pilots in Pakistan have “fake” licenses. That means about 30% of pilots in Pakistan shouldn’t actually be flying.What exactly does it mean to have a “fake” license?

It means that these pilots didn’t pass the exams themselves, but rather paid someone else to take an exam for them. As the minister explained, “they don’t have flying experience.”

Woman in Critical Condition Airlifted to India in 26-Hour Flight as Treatment in US Cost Much More22 July 2022, 11:32 GMTHe added that, “Pilots were also appointed on political basis, unfortunately merit was ignored while appointing pilots.”Considering that PIA is Pakistan’s largest airline and operates a fleet of 30 aircraft, the report was disturbing for many.At the time, PIA was operating nearly 100 flights daily, servicing 18 domestic and 25 international destinations across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America.

Following the "fake license" scandal on June 30, 2020, PIA was banned from flying in European airspace initially for six months, starting on July 1, 2020 and then indefinitely after European Union Aviation Safety felt that the airline was not capable of overseeing and certifying its operators in accordance with international standards.

By July 9, 2020, the airline was also banned by the United Kingdom and the United States.The ban on the carrier has entered its third year now, and as of October 2022, has not been lifted.

Aviation Glory Days

Last week, officials of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) were in Brussels to meet with representatives of the European Union Aviation Safety (EASA) and European Commission (EC) to explore the possibility of resuming PIA flights to Europe.The bottom line is that much needs to be improved at PIA for it to go back to its glory days.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, PIA was known for big achievements, such as: Captain Abdullah Baig, who flew from London to Karachi and established a world record for speed over a commercial airline route of 938.78 km/h (582.98 mph), completing the flight in 6 hours 43 minutes, a record which still holds to this day.

PIA was also the first airline of a non-communist country to fly to the People’s Republic of China, and in 1964 it was PIA that became the first non-Soviet airline offering flights to Europe via Moscow.Furthermore, PIA used to provide technical and administrative assistance and leased aircraft to foreign airlines, including Air China, Air Malta, Choson Minhang, Philippine Airlines, Somali Airlines, and Yemenia.Pakistan International Airlines also played a significant role in establishing the UAE’s Emirates airline in 1985 by providing technical and administrative assistance to the new carrier as well as leasing a new Boeing 737–300 and an Airbus A300B4-200.If PIA was capable of such feats back then, with the right management and zero corruption tolerance, it may one day become great again.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.

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