Airports I have seen PIA in or have flown with PIA from/to
I recall a crewmember of PK710 telling me that the problem in PIA is that there is no consistency. With this in mind I arrived at Lahore Airport on 10th March expecting to have a flight less better than the one I had to Pakistan. Check in was swift and boarding was due to begin at 1155am for a 1240pm departure. This gave me some time to enjoy aircraft movement at Lahore. I noted a PIA777 on it's way to Dubai, an A310 to Abu Dhabi and 737s to Multan and Islamabad. An airBlue Muscat flight was delayed for 4 hours so the passengers were kept in the landside area until it became feasible to check in.
I then cleared security and went to gate 22. On the next gate was a Saudi Arabian 747 and it was heartening to see men wearing Ihram as they fly off to Jeddah to then go and perform Umrah in Makkah. It reminded me of my 1999 trip on PIA to Jeddah for a similar purpose. I had to wait in the departures area before I could board due to a personal reason. Finally at 1225pm me and my wife began the walk down the airbridge. I had already seen from a glance that this aircraft is AP-BHV, named Thar; Colours of the Desert. This tail is the smartest of all PIA provincial tails. Regardless of photos showing a date stamp of 9th March 2010,this is incorrect, the actual flight date was 10th March 2010 !
Upon arriving at the aircraft door, a smart Airhostess in green Salwar Kameez greeted me with “Salaam Alaikum” and pointed me to my seat. I handed her a letter for the Senior Purser as I had on PK709. Upon entering the cabin, I noted straightaway that the former Economy Plus seats were all decked out in red with a white headrest cover with large PIA lettering and logo. Out of Manchester the headrest cover is Orange in colour with a small PIA logo. Boarding music was playing and the cabin was fresh and clean. I believe the aircraft had earlier arrived from Heathrow.
An Airhostess in green uniform immediately came over to me and walked me a few rows away to stow my handluggage as the lockers above me were full ! I then asked this Airhostess if she could hang my jacket to which she immediately complied and hung it up in a wardrobe opposite my seat. She then showed me how to open the wardrobe and said I could access my jacket during the flight at anytime. I found her to be most helpful and her English was very fluent too. I took seats and had a welcome announcement from the Captain followed by one from the crew. My seat was 51B a middle row of three with ample legroom on an emergency exit row. There was room to stretch out and not disturb the passenger behind me.
Newspapers were offered before take off but I declined. Again no pre takeoff drink. The Dua E Safar (pre travel Islamic prayer) video ran smoothly. Then came the safety video. In Urdu the safety video ran fine but when we got to the English version a movie clip began broadcasting as well as very loud sitar boarding music ! The safety video was restarted and played from scratch so we had to sit through the Urdu version again and then the English one !! Then there was an announcement to switch off mobile phones and to fasten seatbelts and cabin crew performed a cabin secure check. Announcements were clear throughtout the whole flight. I further noted that this aircraft was bursting with copies of Humsafar magazine but on closer inspection the issue onboard was the January/February 2010 issue. This has to be one of the most boring issues of Humsafar I have ever seen. And yet the November/December 2009 issue claimed an IATA Senior Managar had stated that Humsafar is at a par with major airline inflight magazines ? I doubt it somehow. A lot of work needs to be done to perfect the standards of this waste of paper.
During final boarding the Senior Purser came to see me and shook my hand. He stated how happy he was to have me onboard and that he would talk more freely during the flight. I felt so important !
We taxied the short distance to Lahore Airport's runway and at 1250pm,10 minutes behind schedule, AP-BHV began a very noisy take off roll. The Airhostess that had boarded the passengers and welcome us also, lifted her hands up to pray as did the green uniformed Airhostess sat across the aisle. As a Muslim I appreciate that we read duas etc, but for cabin crew to have their hands high in the air would not necessarily inspire confidence in non Muslim passengers. I certainly did find it a bit odd that these two airhostesses lifted their hands so high to pray. We lifted off the ground and as soon as the aircraft levelled out over Islamabad we were offered earphones. Blankets were unusually only being handed to women and children ? I had paid over £500.00 for my fare so not to be offered a blanket is a bit insulting ! Pillows were offered when requested.
Flight Purser Nasrullah then brought a bulging bag of goodies and told me that these were from the Senior Purser ! I was naturally chuffed !
The same IFE was offered as on the flight TO Pakistan. Again no IFE magazine and althought the aircraft was searched by various crew for the duration of the 8 hour 15 minute flight not a single copy was onboard ! The Western audio channel had Mariah Carey ; I wanna know what love is, Taio Cruz with Break Your Heart and Meet Me Halfway by Black Eyed Peas. All movie and tv content was the same as 2 weeks ago.
A couple of the cabin crew ,namely Stewards seemed to have a couldn't care less attitude and when asking them to call the Senior Purser carried on chatting with each other and seemed annoyed when I said " I sort of need to speak to him now ?".
Water was offered throughout the flight but I didn't see the call bell answered again. I was only trying to measure how long it takes to get service. Saying that I was served like a King by the Flight Steward and Airhostess in my area.
Kids meals were served first but no games or toys offered.
The meal choice in Economy was as follows but,in the absence of a menu card, an announcement advising the choices would have been useful.
Beef Stroganoff with parsely potatoes and sauteed vegetables ( very tasty !)
Dhai Ka Murgh ( yoghurt spicy chicken ) with Pillau Rice ( again very tasty ! )
Vegetable Bhujia,Dhal and Rice
All this accompanied by a fruit salad (?) , bread roll and butter, Gulab Jamun, PIA branded cutlery pack and unlimited tea,coffee and soft drinks.
My mouth was burning when eating the tasty Dhai Ka Murgh and a Steward called Zahid passed by me to ask something from a colleague. When I asked him to get me a drink he immediately complied and was most friendly. In the past such a request would have been met with huffing and puffing but this gentleman was very professional !
I had a nice chat with the Senior Purser about various things and he said it was so nice to meet a PIA well wisher. In June of 2010, PIA was to be launching brand new products for Economy Class and a leading name that has worked wiith BA,Emirates,American Airlines was to be redesigning PIA's inflight service in Economy Class. Seats were also to be removed to create extra legroom. None of this materialised.
Skyshop brochures were only available in limited quantities and when the Duty Free service started I advised Purser Nasrullah that I had bought an aftershave some 2 weeks earlier and how could I claim frequent flier miles ? I was told I should have asked for a receipt. I made another purchase and got a receipt from the Purser which I will submit for frequent flyer miles ( 42 for the product I bought).
The flight was smooth and in small parts turbulent.
The worst thing to happen on this flight was the news that a manual had been checked and unlike on the earlier flight, I wouldn't be allowed to photograph the cabin crew. Apparently due to a 2008 incident in which 2 PIA crewmembers lost their jobs due to misuse of their photos. I mean come on, an ex PIA staff member and now showing his current airline's ID…is he really going to misuse the photos ? I was most dissappointed and was told that if I wish to take photos in the future I need to request permission from Head Office who will notify the Senior Purser on any PIA flight I am on.
I can't believe I stayed awake the whole 8 hours so that I don't miss the chance to photograph and be photographed with the crew and all for nothing. I sincerely hope that when I do fly PIA again such permission will be granted. Again I am extremely dissappointed that this request was refused by the Captain and Senior Purser as per a manual note.
I am very interested to know what happened in 2008. And also, only 2 weeks earlier making photos hadn't been an issue ?
Toilets were kept clean but on this flight the cabin was never ever sprayed. Pre landing the following snack was offered and crew were most accommodating for second helpings,although PIA ought to offer kwiksnacks/sweets/fruit between meals :
Spicy chicken pastry
Peanut Tart ( delicious)
Unlimited drinks and top ups
Earphones on this flight were collected separately from blankets and cups/litter etc.
A friend's much better photos of the PIA B777 cabin !
When the cabin had been secured,crew took their seats and at 1633pm, PK709 touched down on Runway 2 at Manchester Airport. After a welcome to Manchester announcement , another call was made to ask everyone to sit down as the aircraft was still taxying. Sitar instrumental music began playing and was really nice. Business Class disembarked and then Economy Class. I noted a miserable looking airhostess in a pink Salwar Kameez saying Allah Hafiz to the select few she wanted to say it to.
I like the way in baggage reclaim at Manchester Airport there is an Urdu alert that flashes up on a tv screen above the belt asking if you have all your bags ? The Arrivals area now also has a shop for refreshments etc.
But anyway, My PIA experience is now complete !
Pakistan International Airlines
Lahore - LHE
Manchester - MAN
I will definately choose PIA again and the service level received was excellent but needs minor tweaks.
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