Crew from this airline keeps mysteriously disappearing during Toronto layover

At least eight crew members have disappeared over the last two years, with a spokesperson blaming Canada’s ‘liberal asylum’ policies

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The headline speaks volumes: “Another PIA crew member vanishes in Canada.” For years now, numerous flight attendants from Pakistan International Airlines have been taking care of passengers on flights from Lahore or Islamabad to Toronto, but not on the return trip. Instead, they deplane at Pearson and are never heard from again.

In the latest incident, aviation news site Simple Flying reports that a flight attendant named Ayaz arrived several days ago from Lahore on flight PK-784.

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“On its scheduled return to Islamabad, the steward did not show up in Toronto,” the site said, quoting sources familiar with the matter. “The flight of the national flag carrier had to return to Islamabad without the crew member.”

It’s been less than a month since the last reported incident. On Nov. 13, Pakistan-based Ary News reported that two flight attendants had “slipped away” after arriving on flight PK-772 from Islamabad to Toronto. Crew members named Khalid and Fida did not show up for their return flight.

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Similar cases involved crew named Muntazir in July, and Ijaz and Ramzan, both in October 2022. In all, there have been at least eight missing crew over the past two years, but other disappearances go back to at least 2018. The pattern is the same: the crew member leaves the plane with his or her colleagues but fails to show up for their scheduled return flight. Police and immigration officials are notified, and a PIA spokesperson confirms the incident and says they have contacted authorities and are investigating.

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The problem is not unique to Toronto. An April 2019 report notes of a crew member named Shazia who vanished after a Lahore-to-Paris flight. Sources said she had left a letter of resignation in her hotel room, although the airline disputed that.

Last month the airline announced it was implementing stricter measures to keep track of its employees on flights to Canada and Europe. It set an age limit for flight attendants on those routes, requiring them to be 50 or older, presumably on the assumption that younger people might be more likely to stray. It is also expected to require more frequent check-ins and better communications from staff members during layovers.

Pakistan International Airlines has seen its share of troubles recently. In August it was reportedly unable to pay its employees, and also had to ground several aircraft and cut some routes due to unpaid bills. This was in the same month that employees announced a two-hour “token strike” over plans to privatize the airline, as well as a lack of salary increases.

The airline also had a crash in 2020 that killed all but two of the passengers and crew aboard one of its Airbus A320 craft, as well as killing one person and injuring seven others on the ground.

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On Sunday, airline spokesman Abdullah H. Khan tried to put a brave face on the company’s troubles while also touting the benefits of privatization, in an editorial written for Pakistan’s News on Sunday.

Under the headline: “A legacy of resilience: PIA’s history as a national institution is the key to its future,” he recalled its history as a beacon of national pride and called it “a reliable companion in times of joy and a steady support in times of adversity.”

Recalling its role in providing humanitarian aid and repatriating Pakistanis stranded abroad, he noted: “It is crucial to reflect upon the airline’s enduring legacy and the indispensible role it has played in the nation’s history as well as what lies ahead.”

But Khan has also been willing to point fingers, telling the website Arab News last month: “The reason for this is overly liberal asylum and asylum program by the Canadian government.”

He added that there were repercussions for anyone jumping ship. “We normally terminate the services of such individuals and penalize them by denying them of any benefits,” he said.

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