Three PIA officers under probe after plane seizure in Kuala Lumpur

Following the seizure of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur airport two days ago, three officers of the airline are being probed.

The national carrier is investigating officers of the marketing, engineering and flight operations departments

Records of the three departments are also being scrutinised.

Two days ago, PIA flight PK894 had reached Kuala Lumpur from Islamabad but was stopped by a court order for non-payment of lease.

The national carried had leased a Boeing 777 from Dublin-based AerCap in 2015.  According to Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar, the airline did not make payments in 2020 due to the coronavirus.

According to the interim injunction, PIA is restrained from moving two aircraft in its fleet — a Boeing 777- 200ER with serial number 32716 and a Boeing 777- 200ER with serial number 32717 — once they have landed or parked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport until a further hearing on the matter later this month.

Sources told Geo News that PIA had to bear more than Rs10 million for the return of passengers from Malaysia.

Apparently, the leased aircraft was sent abroad despite having 12 Boeing 777s available.

Air operations to and from Europe and the United Kingdom have been suspended for several months, and in the event of a case involving an aircraft, it is operated within the country.

Barrage of complaints after passengers return

On the other hand, upon arrival in Islamabad, the passengers that had been stranded in Kuala Lumpur lodged a number of complaints.

Of the passengers, 118 reached Islamabad airport aboard a foreign flight via Dubai earlier on Saturday night while 65 passengers reached Islamabad via Doha around 2:30am.

The passengers were reportedly not allowed to give statements to the media. Those that managed to do so alleged that PIA did not inform them about non-payment of the aircraft’s lease and instead said there were “technical difficulties”. They also claimed they were not given food or accommodation in a hotel till an alternative flight was arranged.

Moreover, several passengers said their luggage is still stuck in Kuala Lumpur.

This runs in contrast to statements from PIA on the day of the incident, whereby the airline said it would “look after” the disembarked passengers while an alternate flight is arranged.

‘CAA disapproves PIA’s attitude’

Sources said that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has expressed its displeasure with PIA’s “irresponsible attitude and maladministration,” claiming that PIA seemed to be “unaware of international civil aviation leasing laws.”

“When PIA knew that Boeing-777 was involved in a court case, why did it allow the aircraft to fly abroad?” the CAA has raised the question, per sources. “Wasn’t PIA aware of the fact that violating international civil aviation laws will embarrass the country?”

Case against PIA for non-payment of lease dues

According to sources, the leasing company had filed a case against PIA in a UK court in October 2020 for its failure to pay the leasing fee, worth about $14 million, which had been pending for a period of six months.

In response, the PIA had maintained that since the COVID-19 pandemic had seriously affected the aviation industry, there should be a reduction in the overhead charges.

In the meanwhile, the leasing company kept an eye on the activities of PIA, and as soon as it received the information of Flight 895’s scheduled landing in Malaysia, it appealed to the Malaysian court to seize the aircraft as per the international civil aviation leasing laws, sources added.

On the other hand, the national flag carrier has argued that the Malaysian court took a one-sided decision and that the court did not reach out to the airline for comment.