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PIA leaves Haj pilgrims’ luggage in Madina

Updated September 03, 2018

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RAWALPINDI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Sunday brought back Haj pilgrims but left their luggage in Madina.

The airline said that passengers’ luggage would arrive in a day or two.

Haj flight no. 714 arrived at Islamabad International Airport at 5:15am on Sunday with 168 passengers on board. After shuttling between the offices of the airport administration and PIA for two hours, the pilgrims were informed that their luggage had been left behind in Madina.

Laik Khan Swati, an Islamabad resident, said he and his wife travelled on a PIA flight from Madina and after waiting for their luggage for two hours learned that it had been left behind.

There was no information desk at the airport to facilitate pilgrims, he said. Instead, they had to shuttle between the offices of the administration and the airline but did not see much cooperation.

He said PIA should improve its service and inform passengers at the time of their faults, but they did not admit to their faults. More than 84 passengers had faced the same problem, he added.

Lahore resident Abdul Rehman and his wife waited for their luggage from more than four hours, and did not receive any information about it, Mr Rehman said. He added that this delayed their travel from Islamabad to Lahore as well.

His family was waiting outside the airport to take them home, he said, while they waited for their luggage. He also said that airport officials should set up an information desk.

Another passenger, Ayaz Khan from Batgram, said the airport administration did not give him any information about his left behind luggage. He was asked to return in three days to get information on his luggage, as the PIA would bring it soon, he said.

But it would be difficult for him to travel to Islamabad again as there is little exact information about his luggage. Mr Khan said the airline’s staff were not passenger friendly and did not give average citizens any information.

Sardar Khan from Peshawar also said he could not travel frequently, adding that the airline should bring passengers’ luggage on the same flight so they do not need to travel between their hometowns and Islamabad.

He said passengers received information on their luggage after three hours.

“If they left the luggage in Madina, the administration had to inform passengers of this once they landed in Islamabad,” he said.

PIA spokesperson Mushood Tajwar said: “We regret the inconvenience to the passengers due to this issue and ensure that the luggage of the passengers will be delivered as soon as possible.”

Mr Tajwar said the A320 is a small aircraft that could not bear the weight, which was why luggage had to be dropped in Madina. He added that they would bring the luggage for this flight and a few others on a 777 aircraft within three days.

The spokesperson claimed that passengers’ luggage increased during the pilgrimage because of gifts they purchased for loved ones, and the airline’s small aircraft could not bear the weight so they unloaded luggage instead of passengers.

He added that PIA was trying to facilitate all the passengers and would ensure their luggage is handed over as soon as possible.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2018