PHOTO: Pakistan International Airlines has launched an investigation into a safety breach. (Photo via Flickr/Eric Salard)
An investigation has been launched after as many as seven extra passengers allegedly boarded a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia last month.
According to Pakistani newspaper Dawn, the passengers reportedly used handwritten boarding cards to gain access to the plane and stood in the aisle for the duration of the three-plus-hour-long flight.
Officials are now seeking to find out how staff allowed the Jan. 20 flight to take off with 416 passengers despite only being permitted to carry 409.
Citing sources, Dawn reported that the incident "constituted a serious air safety breach" since the extra passengers wouldn't have access to oxygen in the event of an emergency.
The flight's captain, Anwer Adil told Dawn that his official passenger list didn't indicate there were any extra passengers and said by the time he found out it was too late.
"After takeoff when I came out of the cockpit, Ms. Turab informed me that there were some extra people who [had been] boarded by the traffic staff. I also noticed some people were those who were categorically refused jump seats by me at the check in counter before the flight," Adil told Dawn. "I had already taken off and the senior purser did not inform me about extra passengers before closing the aircraft door."
Instead of reversing course to offload the extra passengers, the flight continued on to Medina.
"Therefore after takeoff, immediate landing back at Karachi was not possible as it required a lot of fuel dumping which was not in the interest of the airline," added Adil.
PIA spokesman Danyal Gilani told the BBC that "the matter is under investigation and appropriate action will be taken once responsibility is fixed" but noted that it's "not possible to put a time frame on" how long it will take.
Dawn reported that the Civil Aviation Authority hasn't taken action against the carrier or its staff.