Pakistan International To Start Holding Crew Passports On Layovers

Pakistan International will hold its crews’ passports during international layovers following another incident last week. The airline has seen four crew members “disappear” during layovers in the last four years, causing concern. The new rules will see tight controls of crew movement during layovers.

Pakistan International Airlines 777-200ER
Three PIA crew members have disappeared during layovers in Canada. Photo: Getty Images

New rules

According to Dawn, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is cracking down on absconding crew members, setting out new rules in direct response to the incidents. From now on, all crew members will be required to hand their passports over to the airport station manager once immigration and customs are cleared.

Passports will be kept with the station manager until the crew arrives for their return flights to Pakistan, usually in the next few days. However, even outside the airport, security will remain tight. Security at hotels will be informed in advance to ensure that every crew member checks-in and no one slips away.

the Pakistan International Airlines PIA Boeing 777-240ER taxiing
The new rules will make PIA one of the strictest when it comes to crew mobility during layovers. Photo: Getty Images

Due to the current risks with COVID-19, the crew have also been told not to stay out at night and to remain at the hotel. Overall, these measures are designed to guarantee that no staffer decides to break away and remain in the country without permission.

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The fourth incident

While the new rules seem quite harsh, PIA has been struggling with the issue of missing workers for a few years now. Incidents like this require thorough investigations by both the airline and immigration authorities since staffers don’t have long-term visas.

Friday’s incident marks the fourth time in four years that an employee has disappeared on an international layover. Both in 2018 and 2020, flight attendants went missing in Toronto. In 2019, the same happened in Paris. Seeing that this is quickly becoming a recurring issue, PIA has decided to take action.

Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777
The recurring issues mean PIA has to take action and cannot ignore the situation. Photo: Getty Images

It’s unclear what disappearing crew members end up doing when they stay back in the foreign country. Some reports have said the missing flight attendant from last year claimed asylum in Canada, allowing her to stay there. However, the new rules are likely to put a stop to such movements.

Crew in the spotlight

With COVID-19 continuing to spread and flight crew at extremely high risk, territories have begun to take strict action. Hong Kong became the first to mandate a 14-day quarantine for all arriving crew, impacting airline schedules. Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines requires crews to wear tracking devices of foreign layovers, while transiting crew members can be arrested for leaving their hotels.

Flight crew have come under the spotlight due to their high-risk occupation during COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images

While pre-COVID airline crew were allowed to explore their layover cities, something considered a huge perk of the job, this has understandably been scrapped. From now on, nearly every country or airline requires its crew to remain in the designated hotel during the layover and go nowhere else. Until vaccines become available to aviation staff and infection levels fall, this will likely remain the case.

What do you think about PIA’s new rules? Let us know in the comments.