Friday Jan 15, 2021
Malaysian authorities on Friday seized a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Boeing-777 at the Kuala Lumpur airport.
The PIA plane was seized on the orders of a local Malaysian court over the non-payment of aircraft lease dues, sources disclosed.
PIA had leased two planes, including the Boeing-777, from a Vietnamese company in 2015.
The plane was seized after passengers were already on board. The aircraft's 18-member staff also became stranded in Kuala Lumpur due to the seizure, and will now quarantine for 14 days as per protocols, the sources said.
"The passengers are being looked after and alternate arrangements for their travel have been finalised," read a tweet shared by PIA on its official account.
According to PIA sources, Flight 895 took off from Karachi and reached Kuala Lumpur and was supposed to fly back to Islamabad immediately because of which it had more crew members on board.
"Passengers were already on board and the pilot was about to take off but Malaysian civil aviation authorities directed the pilot to stop the plane and get off it along with all the passengers," PIA officials said, per sources.
After getting off the plane, all the passengers and crew members were sent to a hotel to stay there.
According to sources, the leasing company had filed a case against PIA in a UK court in October 2020 for its failure to pay the leasing fee, worth about $14 million, which had been pending for a period of six months.
In response, the PIA had maintained that since the COVID-19 pandemic had seriously affected the aviation industry, there should be a reduction in the overhead charges.
In the meanwhile, the leasing company kept an eye on the activities of PIA, and as soon as it received the information of Flight 895's scheduled landing in Malaysia, it appealed to the Malaysian court to seize the aircraft as per the international civil aviation leasing laws, sources added.
On the other hand, the national flag carrier has argued that the Malaysian court took a one-sided decision, sources said, adding that the court did not reach out to the airline for comment.
As against PIA's version, sources said that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has expressed its displeasure with PIA's "irresponsible attitude and maladministration," claiming that PIA seemed to be "unaware of international civil aviation leasing laws."
"When PIA knew that Boeing-777 was involved in a court case, why did it allow the aircraft to fly abroad?" the CAA has raised the question, per sources. "Wasn't PIA aware of the fact that violating international civil aviation laws will embarrass the country?"
CAA has said that with the ongoing situation, PIA will now have to clear all the dues at once to get the aircraft back, sources said.
As per the latest update regarding the matter, the staff members boarded on Boeing-777 have been granted permission to return to Pakistan. The crew includes two pilots, two first officers, and 14 cabin crew members.