PIA: Pakistan International Airlines Pilot refused to fly from New York to Lahore

I would like to clarify it first that I am a very loyal customer of PIA (Pakistan International Airlines), the reasons of this I will explain later in this blog. First, I would like to talk about a tiny news appeared in the 2nd May, 2010 Jang Newspaper which reported that pilot of PIA flight PK-712 refused to take the plane back to Lahore from New York because of non-availability of the rest cabin for the crew. Here is the snapshot of that news:

Snapshot of news appeared in Jang May 2nd, 2010

According to the newspaper, the flight leaves New York at 5:30am and in alternate crew, there is always a pilot and first officer which rest for first 8 hours of flight and take charge of the plane for the next 8 hours. I have checked the flight duration on PIA’s website and it is almost 16 hours. The requirement of alternate cock-pit crew is compulsory due to international safety standards.

PALPA (Pakistan Airline Pilots’ Association) took this matter to the international authority about 5 days before this incident. Newspaper further told that the administration of Airline is thinking of operating the flight with a stop in Manchester on the way-back, so the cock-pit crew can be changed at Manchester Airport.

Later that day, I read on the Newspaper’s latest news that PIA has denied the fact that the pilot has refused to fly any flight and this flight will leave New York at its due time.

As a frequent air traveler and a avid fan of Discovery’s Air Crash Investigations, I got worried after reading this news. This was a very small news in the inside pages but I know exactly how this can be the cause of a very big news if a crash happened just due to this. National flag carrier has 9 Boeing-777 airplanes including Boeing-777LR and holds the record for longest commercial jet flight in aviation industry. The airplanes are made for long range flights specifically and were bought to cater for Toronto, Chicago and New York flights basically. However, while it gives you a great flexibility of operating at longer routes, it gives you a great responsibility of handling the flight safely without any break on the way.

The New York flight takes a break in Manchester on it’s way from Lahore to New York while on the return it come as a direct flight and takes about 16 hours. I am sure that while ordering an airline can ask for any modifications in the plane seating-wise and I am sure the original design would have a rest cabin included with the airplane as the airplane was intended for long-haul flights and I am sure again that PIA would have asked to remove the cabin to increase seating capacity.

PIA-777ER at runway

What makes me worried is a tired pilot who remain seated for first 8 hours of the flight and then he would be flying the plane back to the safety of airport for the next 8 hours. Everyone in airline industry know what a tired pilot flying an aircraft means, a flight in danger of a clash if anything goes wrong, obviously if the pilot is tired, his capability of handling potential hazards would be very low than a fresh pilot. We have seen many airliners crashing in bad weather, low visibility areas or in case of engine failures because either the pilot or first officer was tired and they missed the steps to handle the hazard.

Recently, another news in the same newspaper I read was about the maintenance of these multi-million dollar airplanes (Boeing-777) because the hanger for these airplanes were not made at the home of PIA (Pakistan International Airlines), the Karachi Airport. As of this reason, PIA is already not maintaining these airplanes properly and at times the flights are getting delayed due to security reasons in flying a faulty aircraft.

PIA has recently reported a surge in it’s operating profit which remained about Rs.5 billion in the past year. However, if you are not maintaining the safety standards and stretching your crew to get profit, that is a very risky bet, if in-case an aircraft got crashed due to these reasons, the airline would not only lose it’s multi-million dollar investment in the aircraft but also hundreds of lives along with a bad name for the airline.

I am a frequent flyer with PIA and always choose this airline whenever I go back  home. The reasons behind why I always choose this airline are not that it is a great airline to fly with or they are very hospitable (steward never reply the call, I always have to go to the kitchen myself to drink water), the PIA tickets are not cheap if compared to other airline’s fares and they are not that great in flying according to schedule (flights are often late). The reasons are, number one you get a direct flight from London to Lahore, you are in Pakistan in 8 hours, you do not need to change planes etc. If you take Emirates or Etihad or any other airline, obviously they stop at their home airports en-route. Second reason is much emotional, when you are traveling with PIA, the time when you get to your departure gate, you feel yourself as you are in Pakistan because the passengers and crew will be of your country and that makes you more happy, while coming back until you don’t leave the exit gate of heathrow airport, you again feel yourself at home, within your own people. Other than this, in-flight meals are just OK, the floors are dirty and because mostly it’s Boeing-777 which operates at heathrow route as well, the LCD screens for entertainment on the back of seats are starting to pose problems as well. It never happened with me yet but the passengers sitting beside me, normally their in-flight entertainment system will not work and they will keep on complaining and stewards will keep on saying that I am looking at the problem and nothing will happen. Obviously the airline is not taking care of it’s assets and it’s name.

PIA is our national flag carrier and despite of the fact that I am concerned with the safety of it’s airplanes and other factors, I will keep on flying with this airline as for the reasons I stated above. However, the airline itself need to give itself some fact-check and see what can happen if they keep on ignoring it’s crew and the maintenance of it’s aircraft.

Update 24/02/2014: PIA is the only airline now which flies direct from UK to Pakistan. Airblue was in competition and was even trying to expand it’s presence by offering Manchester to Lahore flight alongside existing Manchester to Islamabad route but reportedly due to some problems with availability of aircrafts, Airblue decided to pull out from the UK market. As a result, PIA seats are selling quickly due to ageing immigrant community who only want to travel direct. There are still some ways to get cheap flights to Pakistan through PIA and other airlines such as Emirates, Qatar, Etihad and Turkish airline but if you want to fly direct, it would be better to book your flight at least 3 months in advance.

  1. I Like to joine Air Line services buit i have no sources Coz am a white coller man i have no support but i realy like to and want to joine this ,
    Sunny Talib

  2. PIA sucks big time,. my flight to chicago just got cancelled. PIA is already suffering losses in billions, this is our national carrier but brings disgrace to all of us when we talk about quality and professioanlism

  3. I once traveled in PIA from DXB to KHI. The guy sitting next to me got a big stone in his biryani, and he asked for the cabin crew. When he informed of the stone in biryani, we both were expecting a polite apology, but guess what….the cabin crew told him that he should thank God for the stone, and there is another passenger in business class who got a small cockroach found in his biryani. Both of us left the food and asked for Pepsi cans 🙁 How does PIA expect that we Pakistanis should support them?

  4. for sake of pia all employees union should be banned

  5. I don’t know about the education costs of a pilot and training about it.please give me a little information
    about pilot regular income.

  6. A year past and things haven’t got better sadly since then

  7. PIA is by far the worst airline I have ever flown in my 43 years. I’m always flying from Paris to NYC and from Paris to the UAE. I fly about 39 int’l flights per year. After I missed my Air France flight I bought a last minute PIA ticket for a sum total of Euros 2,834 at the desk counter at off I was. My flight was horrible the plane smelled, the food grossed me out when I saw a cockroach in it, I got diaherriea from the bottled water which was tampered with. My 14 year old daughter threw up 20 minutes after we landed, The flight stweradess called me an Engarzi Kuthai my co passengers laughed and told me that meant english bitch which was insulting becuase i’m French and have great respect for Islam and Islamic culture. After flying PIA i felt very bad that I was liberal with giving Pakistani airlines a chance but I was disapointed what a bad airline and I was shocked at how muslims act and treat each other I saw a young mother with Islamic hijab who was denied milk for her two year old baby the whole flight which made me cry as a Christian and French woman I felt hurt at how muslims traeted their own so disrespectful. I thank God I’m not a pakistani what a cruel culture and people 😥 😥

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