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PIA schedule not fully restored

KARACHI: PIA’s Europe-bound flights could not be fully restored on Monday, but the airline said it was confident that operations would soon be normalized since the weather had started improving.

Germany Europe WeatherOne of three PIA planes stuck in Europe has left for Pakistan, according to a spokesperson for the airline.

The spokesperson told Dawn that two outbound flights took off for the United Kingdom on Monday, adding that a Manchester-bound flight had to be diverted to Turkey because of bad weather.

Dawn, however, learnt that the flight was already scheduled to land at Istanbul for a change of crew but once there its plan to fly to Manchester was put on hold because of bad weather.

An aircraft that was grounded at Birmingham owing to unavailability of fuel left for Pakistan after oil tankers resumed operations.

The spokesperson said that two of the UK-bound aircraft were still stuck at Paris and Cologne (Germany) and passengers had been shifted to hotels.

Earlier, some Pakistanis who did not have visas for these countries were not allowed to leave the airport. But later visas were issued to them on humanitarian grounds.

The spokesperson said that as soon as the weather improved in Britain, the aircraft would leave for that country.

According to him, around 600 passengers were on board the three planes and an almost equal number of Pakistan-bound passengers were stranded at different airports in Europe.

Two flights — PK 785 Islamabad to London and PK 787 Karachi to London — that were scrapped last week left for their destinations at 11.55am and 12.30pm, respectively, on Monday.

In addition to the 24-hour delay, these flights were held up for an hour because some passengers ‘were late’.

Of the Pakistan-bound passengers — many of them students — a big chunk comprises those who were looking forward to spending their year-end holidays with their families.

According to sources, there were 188 passengers, including 10 infants, on the aircraft grounded at Istanbul (Turkey) since Saturday.

Their journey was unpleasant from the outset. The Islamabad-Manchester flight had to make a stopover at Istanbul for a change of crew. But after takeoff from Islamabad it developed some mechanical fault and had to land at Karachi.

After the fault was removed it flew again for Istanbul. But as the PIA crew in Istanbul were not informed about it, they did not report for duty. The crew that had taken the flight from Karachi to Istanbul refused to fly to Manchester as their duty was over.

The passengers had to put up with the inconvenience of the airport lounge as they were unable to go to hotels for want of visa.

The sources said the passengers blamed PIA for their hardship.

After an overnight stay at the airport, when the aeroplane was finally ready to take off, airport officials found out that one passenger was missing. He was found after some time in a drunken state.

At first airport officials refused to let him board the flight. But after a medical check-up he was allowed to do so and the flight left for Manchester on Sunday at 2pm (local time).

The flight had landed at Istanbul at 10.30am on Saturday. Hapless passengers who had paid for a direct flight went through 27 hours of misery in a freezing Istanbul only because of mismanagement by PIA.

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