LAHORE: “Termination from service” will now be the only punishment if any staffer of the Pakistan International Airlines is found involved in smuggling of banned items.
The PIA management has decided to take the “extreme step” to discourage the crew from smuggling restricted goods or drugs after five of its employees, including two airhostesses, were detained in London last week on these charges.
“The management has decided in principle to dismiss from service with immediate effect those involved in smuggling banned goods abroad or in the country because they are bringing bad name to the PIA and Pakistan. There will be no suspension (from service) or holding of inquiry in such cases anymore,” PIA’s spokesman Aamir Memon said.
Talking to Dawn on Sunday, he said had this policy (of termination) been adopted earlier such incidents would not have been so common.
“There is zero tolerance towards breaking law of the land by the PIA crew”
“There is a zero tolerance towards breaking law of the land by the PIA crew. They have been told about this as PIA is not going to compromise on such violations,” Mr Memon said.
Last week, authorities at Heathrow airport had detained five PIA crew, including two airhostesses, from a London-Karachi flight PK-788. The customs authorities searched the crew’s luggage for two hours and reportedly recovered around 30,000 pounds and a large quantity of smart phones from it.
The UK authorities confiscated the phones and the amount which exceeded the limit and allowed the crew to return to Karachi. The airport authorities also reportedly issued a warning to the PIA over the matter.
Of late, the Border Force Heathrow had included PIA in the yellow category because its crew are allegedly involved in carrying restricted items or goods in excess of their (duty-free) personal allowances.
In a letter to the PIA management, the Heathrow authorities said: “A number of your employees, when operating as crew, have been identified as failing to comply with the Border Force policy and/or UK law. Over recent months there have been a number of occasions when ineligible persons have attempted to use the Heathrow Crew Clearance facility. As a result of our checks they have been identified attempting to use it.
“Additionally, there have also been persons encountered there who have been found carrying restricted items or goods in excess of their duty-free personal allowances. There have been a number of reminders circulated to airlines to remind you who is eligible to use the Crew Clearance facility at Heathrow.”
Under the law, all operating crew members travelling from outside the European Union are required to make a customs declaration. This applies whether or not they have obtained any goods abroad or during the flight. Crew members (are) not permitted to exit land side until they have made a customs declaration at the Border Force Crew Clearance facility in Building 820.
Warning PIA in clear terms, the airport authorities said: “As a law-enforcement agency, Border Force will prosecute those persons committing serious offences to the fullest extent of the law.”
The management of the airport asked PIA to advise its employees that continued non-compliance with Border Control law and policy, on arrival in the UK, would not be tolerated anymore.
A source in the national-flag carrier told Dawn that since the number of such incidents had been on the rise, the PIA crew had become ‘suspects’. “Even the authorities in the UK, the USA and Europe do not spare the carpet crew of the PIA and inspect their luggage too,” the source said, adding that PIA had been “marked” because of an increase in such incidents.
He said that some PIA crew “pay or use right connection” to get the flights for European destinations. “The PIA needs to be purged of political influence and hiring to deal with such matters,” he suggested.
Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2015