Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Pakistan's national carrier, is being investigated for breaching airline safety regulations and potentially putting passengers' lives at risk after it allegedly allowed seven people to travel while standing on a flight from Karachi last month.
The three-hour flight to Medina, Saudi Arabia, operated on a Boeing 777 aircraft which has a seat capacity of 409 (including jump seats used by crew members), reportedly carried 416 passengers, forcing the extra passengers to stand in the aisle of the plane for the duration of the journey, Dawn, the Pakistani daily newspaper, reports.
The situation would have posed a serious risk to passengers as those standing would not have had access to oxygen masks in the case of an in-flight emergency and would have contributed to overcrowding on the plane in the case of an emergency evacuation.
Passengers on board were also allegedly issued handwritten boarding passes, while a computer-generated list of passengers provided to cabin crew by ground traffic staff was said to have not highlighted the excess number of passengers, according to Captain Anwer Adil, who operated the flight.
"After takeoff when I came out of the cockpit, Ms Turab informed me that there were some extra people who [had been] boarded by the traffic staff. I also noticed some people were those who were categorically refused jump seats by me at the check-in counter before the flight," the captain said in a statement.
"I had already taken off and the senior purser did not inform me about extra passengers before closing the aircraft door," he said.
"Therefore after takeoff immediate landing back at Karachi was not possible as it required a lot of fuel dumping which was not in the interest of the airline."
In the case of an excess number of passengers on board a flight, the plane should have returned to its departure airport to unload its extra fliers before resuming its flight, according to standard protocol, sources told Dawn.