PIA first class 'mutiny' flight delayed due to VVIP flight in Islamabad

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By Sean Andrews in London

Further details have emerged of an incident last week when several economy class passengers stormed the first class cabin of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Boeing 747 as a protest of a long delay.

Arrests were made after the captain of flight PK701 from Islamabad to Manchester reported several disgruntled passengers upgraded themselves mid-flight. When the aircraft landed it was met by police officers and Greater Manchester Police confirmed that “several passengers were involved”. Fourteen arrests were made for “endangering the aircraft while in flight”.

The passengers reportedly ignored crew requests to return to the economy cabin, for which they had tickets, and stayed in the near-empty forward first class cabin.
 
The passengers staging the mutiny are understood to have been displeased due to an earlier delay. The 747-300 (AP-BGG) was on the tarmac for almost 4h in temperatures of around 40°C (100°F). The aircraft was scheduled to have departed on 4 May from Islamabad at 09:30 and arrived in Manchester at 14:00.

PIA declines to comment on the incident, but Pakistani aviation internet forums claim the positioning of a government flight caused an initial delay of 1h 15min. However during this time the surface temperatures had risen, causing a payload restriction for take-off. Cargo was offloaded to comply and aircraft fuel removed. Passengers were not offloaded. The additional delay was around 1h 40min. A final factor causing delay was that both vertical speed indicators (VSI) became blank, causing a further 40min delay.

The flight carried 328 in economy, 60 in business class and only 15 in the first class cabin. PIA is understood to have asked all the passengers involved in the protest to pay the full difference between the economy fare and higher class.

Police had also been called to a Manchester-Karachi PIA aircraft earlier this month after passengers caused a disturbance while waiting on board during a long delay, but no arrests were made.

Manchester police have confirmed that the 14 arrested have been bailed until June pending further enquiries.