PAKISTAN’s national airline has taken a senior pilot off duty while an investigation is conducted into why he reportedly left a trainee pilot in charge of a long-haul flight.
The plane, en route to London from Islamabad, carried 305 passengers.
During a flight, Amir Akhtar Hashmi, who was reportedly tasked with training a junior employee, decided to shirk his duties and sleep in the business class section of the plane he was flying for two and a half hours.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), whose slogan is “great people to fly with,” was initially reluctant to implement punitive action against Amir, but launched the investigation after “pressure from above,” reported Pakistani newspaper Dawn.
Neither of the first officers present reported the incident to PIA management to protect Amir, who Dawn reports was previously the president of the “highly influential” Pakistan Air Lines Pilots Association (Palpa).
The pilot has reportedly risked the lives of PIA passengers “many times” when he was Palpa president by flying without taking sufficient rest prior to take-off.
Pakistan’s flag carrier is no stranger to major accidents and aviation safety standards are often criticised in the country. A fatal crash in the north of Pakistan last year took the lives of all 47 people aboard.
Indian media is reporting PIA has suspended its route between Karachi and the Indian city of Mumbai amid heightened diplomatic tensions between the two South Asian nations.
Despite speculation the cancellation was the result of the diplomatic row spurred by spying controversies, a PIA spokesman rejected the suggestion, stating “the reasons behind the move are purely commercial.”
Last year, Pakistan withdrew six diplomats working in New Delhi after allegations of espionage.