It was August 1997 when I first travelled on our “Qaumi” airlines, from Karachi to London, when I was just a little kid. I still remember the journey and the horrors of the flight. Sitting for 10 long hours on a broken seat, with cockroaches looming on our heads through the baggage cabins, and the absurdly loud passengers, it was a nightmare I cannot forget. I decided to never travel on PIA after that. Nineteen years down the line, I witnessed the inauguration of PIA Premier Services on 14th August 2016 on my television set and the reassuring speech of our Prime Minister about the improvements in the airlines. After much contemplation I mustered up some courage to travel in Pakistan International Airlines again.

On Saturday, 10th September 2016, I travelled in PIA from Muscat to Islamabad. I had hoped the airlines would have raised its standards but was so badly disappointed.

To start with, the flight was delayed for 2 hours. That was a bummer. I thought to myself, “It’s alright, let’s give it some credit for the new logo design at least”. I was still looking forward to the flight with excitement, but little did I know how badly I would be let down. The aircraft was very unclean and dirty, with trash on the floor and under the seats. There was an old, grayed out layer of dust on the windows and the whole flight smelled of curry. PIA boasts on its website about the in-flight magazine, Humsafar, but there were no copies of it on the flight. Since 2006, the management of PIA Catering has been given to Singapore Air Terminal Services (SATS), so one would naturally expect the food to be exceptional. And again, PIA did not fail to ruin my expectations. The food was very oily and bland. After landing at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, almost half of the luggage of all the passengers was not delivered. Upon enquiry, we found out that the PIA ground handling crew “forgot” to upload the luggage from the second trolley at Muscat airport. When we registered a complaint, the PIA representative at Islamabad airport said that the luggage would come after Eid.

Many of the passengers had to travel to far off places for the upcoming Eid and this delay in luggage cargo was such a big nuisance for everyone.  Even I had to reschedule my entire itinerary because of this massive inconvenience. There were two foreigners travelling with us on PIA. I felt so bad, ashamed and disappointed when they said they would never travel on PIA, the national airline of Pakistan, again.

I called the PIA Islamabad airport office yesterday to enquire about my remaining luggage. I was informed that only one bag has arrived and that for the remaining luggage I can register a complaint. How ridiculous!

Perhaps the only good thing about the flight was the in-flight staff, who were all very friendly and helpful.

I wonder where have all the premium changes occurred in the PIA service line, the ones our Prime Minister mentioned in his speech on 14th August this year?

PIA has a history of milestones in aviation. It is the first Asian carrier to fly Lockheed Super Constellation, the second Asian airline to acquire a jet aircraft and the first non-communist airline to fly to China. For an airline with such an honorable past, it breaks my heart as a Pakistani to see it crumbling like this. PIA represents Pakistan in the global aviation arena. The constant attempts at privatizing PIA from the government sector have not only downgraded the standards of the airline but have also made PIA suffer severe financial losses.

I can only hope that the airline recovers from its declining state of affairs and that our government stops misinforming the public with its false claims.