PIA 777
Photo credit: Dave707 on flickr

Quick note before I regale you with a colourful account of my worst travel experience ever (and trust me, I’ve had some pretty bad ones): When I started the blog I made a secret pact with myself – it would be a happy place for me and everyone else who came across it. There’s enough negativity in the world, I figured, and not enough attempts at lame humour (you’ll find a whole bunch of that here, btw). So, this post is a slight exception to one of my cardinal blogging rules because it’s not oozing with rainbows and fairy dust. I thought long and hard before writing it (scrunched up my face and developed a few new wrinkles in the process too). And here’s why I decided to go ahead with it: yes, I want the blog to be the happy pill to your day but I also want it to be a resource you can trust when making important life decisions (like choosing an airline for a trip you’ve been saving up for). And that’s why, before I get to the good stuff about our trip to Malaysia, I wanted to get all the negative shizz out of the way.

Here goes.

Why Did We Pick PIA?

I know I know. Here’s what you’re probably thinking “Has she been living under a rock? PIA gets bad reviews all the time. What was she on when she booked the ticket?” Let me explain:

  • We were trying to cut down on our cost and this was the cheapest ticket available. “Ha!”, the evil travel gods must’ve squealed, as they rubbed their palms together in glee, “wait and watch.”
  • It was a direct flight. We thought we’d cut down on transit time and utilise our short 6-day holiday to the max. Boy, were we wrong.
  • We knew that PIA flights tend to get delayed by a few hours so we booked our connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur five hours after we were supposed to land, thinking that would give us enough of a safety net. Of course, we were WAY off the mark.
  • Somewhere, deep down, we were really hoping that PIA would prove us wrong and earn our trust.

What Went Wrong?

Everything that possibly could.

I mean, there was a lot of stuff we were already prepared for like the lack of in-flight entertainment (unless you count the organised squeaking of the seats on the plane as music of sorts). But when the flight took off from Karachi on time (!), a lot of our doubts were put to rest. I was mentally drafting a happy blog post in my head about how us Pakistanis need to cut the national flag carrier some slack.

Half an hour later, we were told that the plane was turning back to Karachi due to technical difficulties. I watched the happy blog post draft make its way to the trash can in my brain and get comfortable among other discarded ideas.

Upon landing at Karachi airport, all the passengers were sent to the transit lounge with promises that someone from PIA would soon show up and update us on what was going on. Except, no-one did.

Will The Real PIA Staff Please Stand Up?

After an hour spent languishing on the uncomfortable plastic seats, a group of us set out on a mission to find someone who could answer our questions. We managed to locate the PIA Duty Officer before he could return to the hiding place he had stepped out from. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He didn’t have any answers, though, except that the flight was delayed by at least 5 hours. Soon, he managed to shake us off by saying he’d be right back after making a few calls to find out what he could do for the people who were missing their connecting flights. We never saw him again.

After 3.5 hours of waiting, someone spotted another PIA staff member trying to slink away and everyone gathered around to get some answers. This was when PIA finally arranged a hotel
PIA flight
The empty PIA counters that became a familiar sight during our ordeal -.-

There was a whole bunch of other stuff that happened too (rude behaviour from PIA staff, an angry mob of passengers chanting at the airport and other drama) but I’ll spare you guys the sordid details. Suffice it to say that when the flight finally took off 16 hours after the scheduled time, all optimism was dead.

And the delay had cost us approx. PKR 100,000:

  • We missed our connecting flight from KL to Langkawi, obvs (that money went down the drain)
  • It was Eid weekend so the replacement flight we got was 5 times what we had originally paid (yay for airlines ripping people off)
  • The new flight was a day later so we had to pay for a transit hotel in KL for the night
  • We missed our hotel booking for the night in Langkawi (which we had already paid for)

Clearly, we learned a lot of lessons about non-refundable hotel bookings and the like. But the most important lesson? Never to travel by PIA again.

Here’s why I’m really disappointed in PIA:

Fine, they have old planes that experience technical difficulties more frequently than other airlines. That can’t be helped. It’s great that they turned the flight back rather than risking the lives of everyone on board. But it was how they handled the situation that ensued that really got to me. There was NO ONE to tell us how long we’d have to wait, if we could expect compensation for our missed flight or if they were arranging for the passengers to stay anywhere while they waited (they eventually arranged a hotel upon everyone’s insistence). There were some foreigners on the flight too who just couldn’t understand what was going on (they weren’t quite as used to being treated like crap as the rest of us Pakistanis but they got a crash course and left well-versed in our ways).

Oh and also, in case you’re wondering what the inside of the plane looked like:

PIA flight
Such clean, much wow
PIA flight
My broken armrest on the return flight. We were just thankful the flight took off on time, though

Conclusion:

If you value your time, money and sanity, don’t fly PIA. Save up a little longer, pay a few thousand extra for some other airline and at the very least you can expect to be treated like a human being if anything goes wrong. As a Pakistani, I do still harbour the hope that one day things might change (a girl can dream) but until then, spare yourself the drama (and the trauma lolol).

P.S: I know that was a long read but if you’ve made it this far, have you considered participating in the Olympics? ‘Cause your stamina is quite impressive. Tomorrow, I get to all the happy stuff from the trip, I promise!

*****

If you enjoy reading about travel misadventures, here’s another one that might entertain you.

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