RAWALPINDI: More than 140 passengers refused to travel by a Pakis­tan International Airlines’ (PIA) Karachi-bound flight on Sunday after its pilot made two attempts to continue the journey but was forced to return to Islamabad owing to a technical fault with the aircraft.

Finally, the national flag carrier’s flight PK-301, an Airbus A320, took off for Karachi for the third time at around 5.30pm with only 17 passengers on board.

The passengers had an exchange of words with the crew members and a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) provincial leader onboard, and criticised the government and the airline management for causing inconvenience to them.

Passengers were nervous and furious while the PIA staff kept insisting there was nothing wrong with the aircraft.

Over 140 of the 160 people on board refuse to travel

According to sources, Captain Amjad Malik operating the plane from Islamabad to Karachi took off at the scheduled time of 12.30pm on Sunday with 160 passengers on board, but he was forced to return after half an hour when the plane’s inertial navigation system — a device that can precisely guide an aircraft without any reference to the ground — developed some problem.

Unconfirmed sources said that the plane had to return to Islamabad after developing “a trouble in the engine”.

The captain safely landed the plane at the Islamabad International Airport, where engineers tried to rectify the problem. However, an interesting situation developed when the captain disappeared after disembarking. After some time, he was located by the airline’s officials. The captain then made another attempt to take off the plane at around 4pm.

Again, the flight was diverted back to Islamabad as the fault could not be removed. It created panic among the passengers who demanded the crew members to open the doors to disembark them, as most of them were not willing to continue their journey.

At this stage, the passengers protested and had an exchange of words with the crew members and the PTI leader. They forced the crew members to open the doors to allow them to disembark.

The engineers were again called to recheck the problem, but they insisted that the issue had been rectified and the captain was in stress.

A video posted on social media showed some passengers arguing with crew members and thanking God for a safe landing. “We thanked God for blessing us with new life,” said the passengers.

A spokesman for PIA, Abdullah Hafeez Khan, said the flight had landed at Islamabad airport for the second time because the captain deci­ded to return back due to safety concerns. “We apologise for the inconvenience caused to the passengers,” he said. “There is no compromise on precautionary measures.”

After maintenance, the plane departed for its destination and safely landed at Jinnah International Airport at around 7.15pm.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2021

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