In the past decade, Pakistan International Airlines has been under fire of heavy criticism due to poor customer service and making it to the headlines for all the wrong reasons. After seven years, I decided to take a trip onboard the infamous airline to see how true rumors were. I booked my flight online which was a fine and smooth process., although there was no option to select seats at all and no online check-in was available even though there was a tab on the website.
Departure to Quetta was at 14:40 so I arrived at the new Islamabad International Airport around 12:30. Help desk staff was very kind and quick in providing with a wheelchair for my grandmother whom I was traveling with. Check-in staff was very rude and slow, taking ages to perform a single task and asking useless questions again and again. First, the lady rudely asks what my grandmother’s “problem” rather than politely asking why she is in need of a wheelchair. Then she proceeds to tell me that I can not take 3 luggage pieces on one ticket while I clearly told her we have two. She disregarded my grandmother’s ticket completely and then tells me that she thought that my grandmother was with someone else. She then takes ages to select seats for us and against my request, gives me an aisle seat instead of a window even though we were the 2nd passengers on the flight to check in and the whole aircraft’s seats were available. After 20 minutes, the check-in was completed and we proceeded to the airside.
Airside was completely empty and the only aircraft at the tarmac had just pushed back for departure. There wasn’t much to do on the airside. One Coffee Planet outlet and a few Kaboom outlet awkwardly positioned close to each other were the best you could find. I settled for an overpriced Shawarma or as Coffee Planet likes to call it, a Chicken wrap which was for 260 Pakistani Rupees or $1.7. That was the only decent meal I had on the trip. I will speak of the onboard meal later. Our Aircraft AP-BLS, a 12.3-year-old A320-200 arrived 1 hour prior to the departure time on gate C3 from Skardu. The previous crew deboarded and a new crew took over. Boarding started 10 minutes late but I was the first person to board due to my grandmother being a passenger with special assistance required. The crew greeted us politely and with grace which was a great first impression after all this time. They were kind enough to help my grandmother to her seat. Every now and then during the flight, they would come and ask her if she required anything or any help. Although the flight was full, boarding was completed rather quickly and efficiently, with ten minutes to actual departure time. The windows were very dirty and need a good scrubbing!
Taxi and Takeoff were conducted in quite a hastily manner. Seat pocket contained the PIA magazine “Hamsafar”, which means travel companion in Urdu, a safety card and an air sickness bag. Newspapers were available in the jet-bridge prior to entering the aircraft. The legroom was fantastic for a short person like me (5’6″). Lunch, or rather, the snack was served 20 minutes into the flight after leveling off at 32,000 feet. The snack included a small bun sandwich which had chicken spread and ketchup and a slice of cake which was definitely much better than the sandwich. Drinks were served with the meals followed by tea.
The rest of the flight was smooth and meal trays were cleared without a hassle. After a dusty approach into Quetta, we landed on runway 13L and parked at stand 2 which is one of the two new Jet-bridge installed during the recent renovation of Quetta airport. After all, passengers disembarked, we exited through the rear door via the Ambulifter which was for special assistance passengers and passengers accompanying them. We walked into the terminal and received our baggage without any problem.
Overall the trip was amazing, the only two things I would count as bothersome would be the long check-in and the quality of food served onboard, the quantity of the food was fine for the short hop. If PIA manages to at least keep such service as their lowest possible standard, people will definitely be flying them more often and without any fear of problems.