KARACHI, May 15: While the new managing director of the Pakistan International Airlines did not attend two recent meetings of the national carrier’s board of directors, he with his family left for Europe to attend some official meetings there, it emerged on Tuesday.
However, the relevant departments of the PIA were keeping a mum about the destination and the purpose of the PIA chief’s visit.
Highly placed sources told Dawn that retired air marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, the PIA MD, was unable to attend at least the last two meetings of the board of directors of the PIA, headed by Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, probably owing to some more pressing engagements.
The sources said that Mr Suleman, a former air chief, accompanied by his wife Farzana Qamar and daughter Rabya Suleman, flew from Islamabad onboard a PIA flight (PK 786) for London on Monday.
While the ticket/PNR (No: LODHLI) of the PIA chief was blank and did not give any details, the ticket/PNR (No: CKOLXQ) of his family members showed that they would be returning by a PIA flight (PK 758) from London’s Heathrow airport on May 22 that flies at 9pm and lands at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore on May 23 at 8.40am, the sources said, adding that the status of their seats, as shown in the ticket/PNR was confirmed and they would be travelling in the pre-allocated seats in the business class.
The sources said the PIA chief was scheduled to participate in aviation safety related meetings organised by the European Union’s aviation authorities, which had already suspended/lowered the PIA’s engineering department’s status and were closely watching the PIA aircraft going to and passing through Europe.
The sources said he might also travel further westwards to the United States to attend meetings of the Terminal Security Agency, the Homeland Security Agency, which owing to their security concerns were now thinking of rechecking the entire luggage being carried by the PIA to Europe before they fly to the United States.
The sources said currently only PIA passengers were checked in Manchester, the United Kingdom, before the flight flew for the United States, which though was time consuming but bearable.
If the condition of checking of all luggage in Europe was imposed by the US, it would be commercially disastrous for the PIA as very few passengers would opt to travel by the national flag carrier as they would have to undergo an additional hassle of luggage checking at a European airport, which could take between five and seven hours.
The sources said the PIA chief would try to persuade the US authorities that such stringent conditions not be imposed on the PIA.
PIA general manager (PR) Syed Sultan Hasan and media adviser Tahir Khalique were asked about the purpose, destination and duration of the visit of their chief and his family but they both said the movement of the PIA chief could not be disclosed.
Answering another question regarding the reason that why the PIA chief had not attended the board meetings, they said they had no knowledge of that matter.