KARACHI/ISLAMABAD - The stand-off between Pakistan International (PIA) and the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (PALPA) continued for the fourth straight day on Sunday, with over 55 flights cancelled by the previous afternoon and the list expected to get longer.

Thousands of passengers who have paid good money and trusted the national carrier continue to hang in limbo, with several of them Hajj pilgrims who are waiting to return home. PIA on Saturday extended an official invitation to PALPA to sit down for negotiations.

A delegation of PALPA departed from Karachi for Islamabad today where it was meet the Prime Minister's Adviser on Aviation Shujat Azeem for negotiations. The strike, however, will continue during this time with passengers continuing to suffer the consequences of cancelled flights.

The government is considering including pilots' duties into mandatory service, sources said on Sunday. According to the sources, the pilots will not be able to go on strike if their employment is converted into mandatory service.

The government is also considering bringing in pilots from abroad, the sources added. PIA's senior pilots are receiving over Rs1.5million per month in salaries, with the government spending over Rs3 billion per annum for pilots' benefits and facilities. The new demands put forth by the pilots, including increase in salary, will increase pressure on the government's already-burdened kitty.

PALPA said the disruptions are because the management has inducted more aircraft than it has trained airmen to fly them and is unable to manage scheduling properly.

Amid the blame game that has ensued after the issues between PALPA and PIA boiled over, the ultimate losers have been the passengers, especially those who are currently at foreign ports waiting to return home but are now in dire straits because of cancelled flights.

Since Friday, PIA management has been trying to resolve the issues and summoned a meeting which according to PALPA, they were not invited to.