A flight attendant working a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Karachi to Toronto has gone missing in Canada. It’s the fourth time in four years that a PIA employee has absconded on an international layover, three of which have been during flights to Canada. PIA has issued new guidance for employees operating international flights, which includes revoking their passports on arrival.
Another PIA cabin crew member missing
It’s happened again! A flight attendant operating a Pakistan International Airways (PIA) service has once again disappeared in Canada. The flight attendant, named by local media as Ramzan Gul, arrived in Toronto on January 29th on PIA’s flight PK-797 from Karachi. It was intended that the worker was to operate a return flight, PK-784, on January 31st. However, they never arrived to board the plane.
It’s the fourth time in as many years that a PIA flight attendant has gone AWOL during an international layover. Last year, another flight attendant went missing in Toronto after arriving from Islamabad. In 2019, a worker vanished in Paris. And in 2018, a flight attendant claimed asylum in Toronto during his layover, and never returned to Pakistan.
PIA’s management is aware of the matter, and has launched an investigation in partnership with the Canadian immigration authorities. The worker is not believed to have any sort of visa in place to enter the country.
New guidance issued
In a bid to contain its employees more effectively during international layovers, Pakistan International has issued a new set of guidance for workers on international flights. The standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the flag carrier take effect immediately.
The new rules include handing over their passports to a station manager after customs and immigration are cleared in the foreign country. These will not be returned to the workers until it’s time to check-in for their flight back home.
Cabin crew will be supervised during their hotel stays, to check that all employees check-in and remain at the hotel. While many destinations have some restrictions on airline crew movement due to the pandemic, PIA will additionally instruct all employees not to remain outside the hotel at night.
Not a good time for PIA
The flag carrier of Pakistan has not been having the best of times over the last 12 months. Following the tragic crash of an A320 on approach to Karachi in May last year, an investigation was launched into the credentials of pilots working for the airline. 150 pilots were subsequently suspended until the authenticity of their licenses could be confirmed.
This worrying situation led EASA to ban the airline from flying into Europe, closely followed by the United States. However, Canada never banned PIA from operating to its airports. In October, 54 more employees were fired from the airline in relation to the investigation.
Nevertheless, the airline had continued to fly, although its reputation is likely to remain tarnished for some time. The EU maintains its ban on the airline, and will do so for a further eight weeks or so, and the airline is beginning to show the strain. It returned its ATR 27 fleet to the lessor in December, and briefly had a Boeing 777 impounded in Malaysia over a legal dispute.
It remains to be seen whether PIA can make it through the difficult year in one piece.