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Fear of flying

December 23, 2012

As a frequent flier I have had to brave PIA’s tender mercies on more occasions than I care to remember. In a flight to Beijing once, there were no blankets given while the temperature inside the cabin was freezing. Perhaps the stewards were too busy to notice passengers curled up in a foetal position due to the extreme cold.

Your boarding pass may direct you to a specific seat but often that seat has been offered to a VIP, a politician or just some purdah observing lady who refuses to sit in her own allocated seat because it’s next to a man. I experienced this sabotage on my way from Islamabad to Lahore. Instead of issuing an apology, an attendant reminded me that I was lucky I didn’t get bumped off the plane or told to sit in the toilet — something which has recently happened on a domestic trip. ‘The flight is fully occupied, no worries our toilets are vacant’ can be the new tagline for the national carrier.

Forget about the outdated in-flight entertainment; even basic necessities are compromised upon. Meals are only served twice in a 16-18 hour flight to Toronto! Certainly inflation is running high but that doesn’t mean that such a ghastly revenge be taken on helpless passengers thousands of feet in the air where they can’t even hop out and grab a snack. Perhaps passengers should carry their own tiffin during long flights. Should you buy a ticket for PIA, pray that it departs on the day it is scheduled to fly; I have waited from 24 hours to two days for flights to Canada and the UK. And, no, there were no profuse apologies by the authorities either.

The domestic service operates like a local bus service, picking up passengers en route to the final destination. I experienced this when a Karachi bound flight made an unscheduled stop in Multan to pick up passengers obviously delaying our arrival by a few hours.

Every time we approach descent I anxiously wait to hear the sound of the landing gear. One can’t be sure if it will open up at all.

And even if the mechanical side is working, I wonder if the pilot will remember to open it up! —Sirajuddin Aziz