Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was in troubled waters for quite some time before flight PK-661 crashed near Havelian; the national carrier has been consistently making a loss since the turn of the millennium, it is grossly overstaffed, its fleet is ageing, and policies that have allowed Gulf-based airlines to freely operate in Pakistan have decimated the airline’s revenue. These are large-scale systemic issues, which would cause any airline problems. But it is the little mistakes and simple managerial negligence that cause passengers so much anguish and are the source of the burning ire being poured down on the airline by the public.

It has now come to light that the ATR aircraft’s engine’s performance was guaranteed by the manufacturers for only 5,000 cycles in dusty, saline conditions such as Pakistan, yet PIA believed it was 15,000 cycles and over-operated it against the advice of aviation experts – leading to over 40 engine failures in the past three years alone. One small oversight and the hint of a bargain caused PIA to put thousands of lives in danger.

As glaring as this fault is, it is not problems like this that really irk passengers. To cite a few cases, PIA did not account for the decreased luggage space aboard the ATRs, which means that luggage has been left behind countless times for future flights to bring over, a great inconvenience to passengers. Recently it has emerged that after failing to meet water safety standard on-board its Canada bound flights – usually 12 to 16 hour long – PIA flights have resorted to handing out bottles of mineral water to passengers wishing to use the toilets. By making passengers suffer through such harrowing ordeals, how does the airline expect to garner trust and loyalty?

Perhaps the last straw is this; instead of trusting in the science of avionics and the definitive answers provided by engineering, PIA staff – albeit not management – decided to sacrifice a black goat right on the tarmac by an ATR plane to “ward off the evil eye”. If this is what it takes to get a flight safely to its destination, then even divine intervention cannot save this airline.