London, May 6: Fourteen angry economy class passengers, who had stormed the first class cabin while a Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 747 was in mid-flight, were arrested when the aircraft landed yesterday at Manchester airport, it was disclosed today.
The pilot of the jet radioed ahead that he was having to cope with a “mutiny” on board, with the result police were waiting on the tarmac as the plane landed.
A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: “Police at Manchester Airport were alerted to a problem on an incoming PIA flight from Pakistan. Several passengers were reported to be trying to enter the first class area of the plane.”
He added: “When the plane landed, 14 of the passengers were arrested on suspicion of endangering an aircraft in flight. They have all been bailed until the end of June, pending further inquiries.”
The temperature on the flight was at boiling point even before the aircraft had taken off from Islamabad airport.
Passengers were kept confined to their seats during a four-hour delay in conditions of searing heat, it was reported today.
With economy packed, a number of passengers decided to upgrade themselves to the relatively empty luxury section at the front of 747. The furious passengers refused to move despite pleas from the crew.
A spokesman for the airline refused to comment but it is understood that the problem for passengers who want to take direct flights between the west and Pakistan -- say, from Manchester or Heathrow to Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi ' is that they have to rely on PIA.
This is because many western carriers, including British Airways, simply refuse to fly to Pakistan post-9/11 or have reduced them to a minimum.
A London resident of Pakistani origin, who said he had taken PIA flights to Pakistan on numerous occasions in the past, said: “Since there are very few direct flights to Pakistan, they tend to get very full, and the airline tends to overbook. Also, when there are delays, they don’t tell you but keep you waiting inside the aircraft in hot, stifling conditions, for hour after hour. They think if they tell you how long the delay will be, passengers will want to come off, and getting them off and on again is expensive.”
Passenger comments on web sites have not been kind to PIA. “It fails to live up to its competitors in every other aspect,” said one.
“Cabin staff was young, pleasant and courteous but the food was awful,” said another. “We are now considering carrying our own food when we fly PIA. On both, out and in flights, water dripped from above on passengers at the time of landing.”
A third complained: “Main objection is washrooms in economy class. They are nice and clean at take-off but soon tissues are lying everywhere on the floor, the sink etc.”
A senior executive on a well-known carrier to India said: “There are 14 or 15 crew and there is no way they can restrain 14 determined passengers during a flight. This was dangerous.”