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April 7, 2020

5 PIA employees tested positive for coronavirus

Top Story

April 7, 2020

PESHAWAR: Five crew members of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) tested positive for coronavirus on Monday at a time when the airline crew has been frequently demanding halt to operations amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to this correspondent, PIA general manager for public relations Abdullah said that five PIA crew including two pilots have tested positive for the virus. However, he said the flights will continue as protective equipment of good quality was being provided to the staff in flights.

The ongoing operations of PIA have been a cause of mental agony for its employees as well as a potential means of spreading the coronavirus. An employee of PIA flights operation, after returning from a flight on Monday, told this scribe that all seats in the plane were filled to capacity and there was no social distancing. “As per rules amid the pandemic, one seat is to be left vacant and another filled. But the seats were all booked in our flight. Also, there were no sanitizers while food was not served in boxes but in trays that has more potential of coronavirus spread.”

The employee said they left home for the flight early morning on Sunday and returned to Islamabad Monday morning but instead of going home now they have to wait at a hotel for 24 hours for the coronavirus tests. “I am still at the hotel and tomorrow morning I will be allowed to go home once my test is negative. I don’t know what will happen to me tomorrow,” the perturbed employee told The News by phone. A flight steward said the flights of longer duration on international routes were riskier than the domestic ones.

“In fact, a flight of long hours and duration is riskier. As per rules, such long flights are specifically banned during the coronavirus epidemic. Also, there are no stopovers in the ongoing international flights of PIA because other airlines have suspended operations and countries en-route don’t want to allow planes on their soil for a stopover amid the ongoing pandemic,” he added. He said that a flight from Islamabad to Canada normally takes 15 hours non-stop. An air hostess, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that daily there are two flights of PIA from Islamabad to Skardu and Gilgit.

“It is a fact that PIA earns much from these flights because there are plenty of passengers. However, the flights in the ongoing pandemic can aggravate the situation and spread the virus because we already have weak protective arrangements in the planes,” she claimed.

Meanwhile, a formal notice issued by the PALPA on Sunday states: “It has come to our notice that on the recently operated ‘humanitarian flights’, safety has been compromised and COVID-19-related SOPs have been ignored. The safety and health of our crew members has always been and remain our utmost priority.