PIA – Pain In the Ass

Earlier, we did a piece on the types of people one generally encounters on a PIA flight, you can read that here.  And here we have a personal account of what can actually go wrong with the airline itself.

The mere mention of PIA makes my stomach knot. Don’t get me wrong, my patriotism is very robust when it comes to national institutions. It’s just that I suffer the bad luck of having experienced the most horrendous side of the airline during my numerous travelling escapades. Such is the track record of my fateful encounters with the airline that I am forced to say a vehement prayer before embarking on a flight with them.

The latest episode associated with PIA will perhaps be etched in my memory for posterity. It was a tumultuous afternoon in the restive city of Karachi a day after a spate of target killings claimed the life of a PIA employee. I was scheduled to catch the flight to Lahore following a weekend of wedding frenzy.

As I sauntered into the airport I was welcomed by the sight of a back-log of passengers from the flights cancelled the previous day, in addition to those who were scheduled to fly that day. I took a deep breath, bracing myself for a long wait in what seemed like an endless queue before the ticket counter. When I finally reached the ticket counter I was told by a rather discontented PIA worker that the flight had been delayed by 45 minutes.

As I cogitated over the means to kill my 45 minutes in the waiting lounge, a passenger standing right behind me told the lady at the ticket counter, ‘perhaps you should announce the delay in departure’.

The staff member grimaced, pursed her lips and uttered coarsely, ‘Go to the back of the airport and have it announced.’

The man who stood baffled and shocked at this point replied, “You expect ME to do that?’ The lady unabashedly maintained, ‘Yes Sir, you will have to do that yourself!’

On that wonderful note I navigated towards the waiting lounge and placed myself in the midst of a swarm of fellow passengers.

After sitting around for an hour or so I realized that it was past the scheduled departure time. Upon inquiring about the flight’s take off time I was told to stay put as a  further delay was expected. Another hour passed and I could sense signs of a commotion building up in the congested airport. I too stood up to inquire about why the God-forsaken flight was not leaving for Lahore. When I questioned an airport staff member on the matter he answered, ‘Sir the flight crew has not showed up due to the ongoing strike and we have no idea as to when this flight will take off.’ Other passengers who stood next to him demanded an explanation for passengers being made to wait endlessly in lieu of being notified earlier about the problem. Matters had been rendered complicated since the flight’s luggage had been checked in. Leaving the airport hence was not going to be an easy feat for the passengers.

Passengers who had waited for around three and a half hours started shouting at the airport staff at the ineptitude and lack of concern shown by the airline. A man complained that life does not come to a stand-still if one man gets shot in the city, while a woman lamented over the poor health of her child. Passengers soon started chanting slogans against PIA, while clapping in a manner analogous to what is commonplace at political rallies. ‘PIA HAYE, HAYE’, was the sermon of the day. Some even started banging into the airport windows.

PIA, HAY…. waitaminute, is this the right protest?

A security guard who walked in to calm the situation found himself buckled in a flood of people. I spotted a member of JUI sitting at the corner of the airport. An emotional announcement by an airport employee was directed towards him via the announcement mic for the whole airport to hear. ‘I want to ask you something Mufti Sahab, an uneducated woman has a question. PIA members are swearing on the Holy Quran that they will send their crew. What is the significance of swearing on the Holy Book? If you have an iota of decency please say something on this issue.’ I ofcourse could barely control my laughter as flashbacks of Veena Malik went through my mind. The crowd gave way to a bearded man who in his wishful thinking presumed he was being summoned. He soon realized that and in a confused and embarrassed state took his seat.

The frenzy was not over yet. As I went towards the cafeteria I heard a voice on the speaker phone. I listened intently assuming it was a flight announcement. What I heard instead was a stream of the foulest language I had ever come across. A disgruntled passenger had gotten hold of the microphone and was bath mouthing PIA and their father and mother for troubling passengers in the worst of ways. Another man grabbed the mic and accused the government of corruption and incompetence. A group of foreigners meanwhile were seen laughing away at the bizarre turn of events.

A few moments post that, the next announcement was music to our ears. Passengers were at last, asked to board the plane!

Our woes didn’t seem to end as yet though. After settling ourselves on the plane we all started feeling uncomfortably warm. When I questioned an airhostess over the temperature inside the plane she said, ‘Sorry the cooling unit is not working’. I checked the vent and discovered that it was choked. I asked the flight attendant in a flustered state, “when the plane reaches a certain height there would be no air in the cockpit, how will we breathe?!’ She calmly replied, ‘Don’t worry sir the oxygen mask will fall in front of you’.

Pretty standard stuff really.

I held my head in despair as a passenger complained to the steward about the heat and suffocation in the plane. The steward shot back “we did offer you water didn’t we?!’ The angry passenger sarcastically told him how big a favour the steward had done on him.

When the rickety plane finally landed, irate passengers vowed never to travel PIA again. I on my part thanked the Lord for having reached my city in one piece!

However the memories of the torturous flight continue to haunt me, filling me with an apprehension for the next dreaded flight of PIA I’ll have to board. In moments of agitation towards the airline I find myself repeating a phrase which used to amuse my brother and I during our childhood. ‘PIA Gutter Main Jaa Kay So Jaee-ay.’

Syed Abbas Hussain is a graduate of the university of Kent, UK where he studied Politics and IR. He has worked as an Associate Producer for express 24-7, is a free-lance writer and a theatre actor.


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Categories: The World I Know


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3 Comments on “PIA – Pain In the Ass”

  1. Imran
    September 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Everyone has a love/hate relationship with PIA. Sometimes the journey is as convenient as possible- and other times its the biggest PIA (like you said- pain in the ass). Your experience however tops anything i may have been through.
    Needless to say i thoroughly enjoyed the article!

  2. Rida
    September 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Absolutely hilarious! What an experience- and i love the way you’ve penned it down. Looking forward to more articles from you Abbas!

  3. Sabz
    September 9, 2011 at 3:40 am #

    Absolutely ridiculous article!!! Or perhaps I’ve always been the fortunate one with PIA Alhamdullilah!! To be honest since you have studied abroad you probably would know what people say about Pakistanis too…Scumbags, Pakis, Terrorist, the worst nation of the worst country in the world.
    The only thing what I can say is we can’t shut peoples mouth, but we can stop listening to them.

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