Crisis Hits Pakistan’s National Airline as Another Flight Attendant Disappears in Canada

In the latest incident, another Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight attendant went missing in Canada last week upon arrival in Toronto, as confirmed by the airline’s spokesperson, Abdullah Hafeez Khan, on Wednesday.

According to Khan, flight attendant Faiza Mukhtar arrived in Toronto on January 19 on PIA flight PK-781 from Islamabad. She was scheduled to depart the next day on flight PK-784 from Toronto to Karachi. However, as Khan stated, “she did not board the flight and disappeared.”

This occurrence follows a series of similar incidents in 2023, with at least seven PIA flight attendants reported missing after landing in Canada. In late December, Syed Ali Abbas and Farkhanda Shaheen, who landed in Toronto from Lahore, failed to return for their departing flight. Ayaz Qureshi also did not report back after arriving on a flight from Lahore to Toronto earlier that month. In November, Khalid Afridi and Fida Hussain Shah disappeared after landing in Toronto on a flight from Islamabad. Additionally, there were several other instances of flight attendants slipping away in Canada in the preceding months.

Sources suggest that the surge in disappearances among flight crews is tied to concerns about low salaries and apprehensions regarding the airline’s privatization plan. However, the airline attributes these disappearances to Canada’s generous asylum policies and has attempted to stem the trend by increasing the minimum age for flight attendants traveling to Canada.

Abdullah Hafeez Khan, the airline spokesperson, mentioned that a dedicated unit has been established to investigate these disappearances. He emphasized the airline’s commitment to taking strict departmental action, leading to the termination of employment for those who abandon their duties. Khan asserted, “These individuals will face immediate legal consequences upon their return home.”

Addressing the challenge, Khan stated, “There is no failure on the part of the airline, as we have made the most stringent efforts to address this issue. However, the liberal laws in Canada render these measures less effective. Consequently, we are exploring legal avenues against the culprits, involving law enforcement agencies.”

Khan further highlighted the airline’s proactive monitoring of the situation, ensuring vigilance to prevent any unusual behavior or financial transactions by flight attendants.

Continual Problem

Information obtained by The Media Line reveals instances of PIA flight attendants failing to return and seeking asylum in various countries dating back to 2018.

In 2019, Shazia Saeed arrived in Paris, France, on PIA flight PK-734 and disappeared after leaving the crew’s hotel.

Yasir Ali went missing in July 2020 after arriving in Toronto on flight PK-781 from Islamabad.

Fareha Mukhtar vanished in September 2021 after landing in Toronto.

In 2018, a flight attendant known only as Mahira disappeared upon landing in Toronto and currently resides in Canada. She played a role in providing legal assistance to Fareha Mukhtar during her asylum application process.

In January 2021, a male flight attendant disappeared in Toronto, followed by Zahida Baloch a day later.

Waqar Ahmad Jadoon went missing in January 2022 after landing in Toronto on flight PK-781. In October of the same year, Ejaz Shah disappeared after arriving on the same flight.

Established as Orient Airways in 1946, Pakistan International Airlines underwent transformations before becoming the national carrier in 1955. Despite achieving milestones such as being the first Asian carrier to operate the Boeing 777, the airline has faced financial challenges, governance issues, and controversies.

Amid crises, aviation expert Syed Junaid Agha emphasized the need for comprehensive reforms addressing corruption, political interference, governance deficiencies, and labor disputes. Allegations of financial corruption have eroded public trust, impacting the airline’s competitiveness internationally.

Agha highlighted the importance of resolving salary issues to restore workforce confidence and adapt to the dynamic aviation industry. Political interference, driven by considerations other than merit, has hindered PIA’s ability to navigate external pressures.

In recent years, a growing number of Pakistanis have sought to migrate to Europe and North America due to challenging economic conditions. Economic factors, including currency depreciation and unemployment, drive this migration trend, according to immigration expert Tanzeela Javed.

Javed noted that Canada’s asylum rules, which prevent deportation until an application is considered, contribute to the attractiveness of seeking asylum there. She urged policymakers to enhance security measures, foster economic growth, and promote inclusivity to create an environment where citizens feel secure and optimistic about their future in Pakistan.

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