Flying in the aisles on Pakistan International Airlines

PIA - Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777-300ER; AP-BHV@LHR;13.05.2013/708eh via Aero Icarus Flickr (CC-SA 2.0)
PIA - Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777-300ER; AP-BHV@LHR;13.05.2013/708eh via Aero Icarus Flickr (CC-SA 2.0)

Most conversations about aisle access in flight are about business class travelers and not wanting to climb over a seat mate. For Pakistan International Airlines it means something completely different. A flight from Karachi to Medina on 20 January 2017 flew with 416 passengers on board, despite seats (including crew jump seats) for only 409. An extra seven passengers were issued hand-written boarding passes and reportedly stood in the aisles for the four and a half hour trip, according to BBC reports. More likely they stood in the galleys based on implications that they were off-duty crew denied jump-seats, but it is still all sorts of bad.

Pakistani publication Dawn quotes the captain of the flight pushing blame for the overloaded aircraft to the cabin crew, “After takeoff when I came out of cockpit, Ms Turab informed me that there were some extra people who [had been] boarded by the traffic staff… I had already taken off and the senior purse did not inform me about extra passengers before closing the aircraft door.” Moreover, the captain insists that the decision to continue the flight was based on the costs associated with aborting the journey after departure, “Therefore after takeoff immediate landing back at Karachi was not possible as it required lot of fuel dumping which was not in the interest of the airline.”

Carrying passengers without allocated seats creates all sorts of safety risks. There is simply no excuse for doing so. And choosing to continue the flight after the issue was discovered is equally terrible. Moreover, I don’t know that I buy the fuel dumping excuse unless the plane was fueled at Karachi for the round-trip journey (i.e. no additional fuel would be taken on at Medina for the return flight). Either way it seems reasonable to conclude that everyone involved screwed up badly on this one.

Though it does once again raise the idea of seating designs like the AvioInteriors SkyRider for a near standing experience and increased density on board. Yikes.

Header image: PIA – Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777-300ER; AP-BHV@LHR;13.05.2013/708eh via Aero Icarus Flickr (CC-SA 2.0)

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. That’s pretty terrible. When I worry about safety I often take solace in the fact that airlines are so rigid they won’t let stuff like this happen. I’m sure I may have missed a case or two, but the only one I can think of right off hand what is a charter United States airline jamming in extra passengers during the collapse of Vietnam on the last flight out, before the Vietcong-controlled forces took over in the mid-1970s. I’ve always given a mental “pass” in my mind on that one given the circumstances, and I haven’t seen it again until your post just now 🙁

  2. I went to pakistan aug 2016 .the flight from manchester airport to isb. There was a women arguing for not getting a seat ‘ said to me she paid £650 but when she complained she was told they will find her a seat after take off. She remain seated on crew seat for 8 hour of journey. There are not enough people to complain .

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