PIA Will Confiscate Crew Passports On Layovers After Flight Attendants Repeatedly Go “Missing”

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Dawn reports that Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will start confiscating crew passports during layovers, after a flight attendant went missing in Toronto… again.

PIA crew members keep going “missing”

Over the weekend a PIA flight attendant went “missing” in Toronto. PK798 operated from Lahore to Toronto, and the crew had a layover there. Everything seemed fine until the crew was supposed to work the flight back to Pakistan, at which point one of the flight attendants didn’t show up.

The airline has launched in inquiry into the situation, and has also reported this to Canadian immigration authorities.

This is the second time in about six months that a crew member didn’t show up for the return flight out of Toronto. In July 2020, a PIA flight attendant also went “missing” during a layover in Toronto. In the previous incident the flight attendant had informed the airline he would be going to another city, and at that point he become unreachable.

Even the incident last July wasn’t the first time that this had happened during a layover in Toronto.

PIA will now hold onto crew passports

Given how often the same thing has happened, it appears that PIA will finally be changing its protocols. Going forward, PIA flight attendants in foreign countries will have their passports held onto for the duration of their layovers.

After they clear immigration upon arrival, the airport station manager will hold onto crew passports, and they won’t be returned until crews check-in for the return flight.

On top of that, PIA will require hotel security at layover hotels to make sure that crews check-in on arrival, and will also require crews to stay in the hotel at night during layovers.

Of course none of these protocols completely eliminate the possibility of an event like this being repeated, though without a passport it certainly complicates things.

Bottom line

A Pakistan International Airlines flight attendant went “missing” during a layover in Toronto, which is the second time in recent months that this has happened. Hopefully the flight attendant is okay, and I feel bad for whatever caused them to likely choose to (likely) flee.

Given this, PIA will start holding onto crew passports during layovers, and will add additional security checks at layover hotels.

  1. In the good old days of Ariana Afghan DC-10 flights, the whole crew would disappear after arriving at CDG or FRA.

  2. So what exactly are these flight attendants trying to do? Become illegal immigrants in Canada? It seems difficult to cross the border into the US given current land border restrictions (but of course it’s not like they would be crossing it legally regardless).

  3. I assume the airline has made special arrangements because usually, people have to show a passport when checking in.

  4. This is an impressively useless move on a few fronts. First, if they’re intending to relocate permanently they’ll bring other supporting documents. Second, they are staying via one of two routes: claiming refugee status or staying illegally, and neither options requires a passport.

    If refugee status, they’ll just tell the truth that their passport was confiscated by their employer and that’s not a big deal (though not good for the Canada-based employee that took it). If they’re staying illegally, they have no need for a passport at all.

  5. I do not think taking the passport away will solve the issue – its a reaction but not a resolve to the actual issue. If you have a company where its who you know vs what you know, a company where corruption and bribes are taken more seriously than knowledge, and a company where ‘outside influences’ determine the course of the company or employees then this will continue to happen. Its happened in the past, its happening in the present, and until theres a fundamental shift in the organization it will continue to happpen. There are many instances of PIA staff, crew and others disappearing on flights to London, Toronto, Copenhagen, etc so this doesn’t seem newsworthy at all — unfortunately just another part of PIA’s (lack of) management

  6. Dear beloved and trusted crew –

    Due to some staff forgetting to return on our wonderful airline to our universally adored mother country, we will be borrowing your passports for the duration of your turnaround in any country more desirable than Pakistan. If it worked for Stalin, it sounds good to us.

    Thank you and fondest wishes,

    p.s. The armed guards outside your doors are purely there for your protection but don’t go out for ice after 9 PM.

  7. It’s unlawful for anyone to possess another’s passport. It’s a criminal offence.

    It won’t take long for this “solution” to backfire on PIA. All it takes is one FA to report the crime in Toronto, and that FA’s manager gets a knock on the door from the RCMP. If the manager has the employee’s passport in his possession, he’s looking at a criminal charge in Canada.

    PIA knows perfectly well this is illegal. they’re counting on FAs not knowing. Good luck with that.

  8. @David – in answer to your question, “So what exactly are these flight attendants trying to do?”

    They are obviously trying to get the hell out of Pakistan and find opportunities for a better life somewhere else. Canada offers exactly that. And Canada is a much more attractive, and certainly a much more welcoming, target destination than the USA for most folks (sad to say, as an American, but it’s true), so the US-Canada border isn’t going to figure into their plans at all. In fact, undocumented immigrants seeking refuge have been fleeing from the USA across the border into Canada (on foot, in the winter…) in increasing numbers in recent years – under the previous (Trump) administration it became a major thing.

    The lack of a passport in hand for an about-to-retire flight attendant isn’t going to deter anyone who wants to do this.

  9. When I flew for Libyan Arab Airlines in the early 1980’s crew passports were always held by the airline while we were on trips. What PIA is doing is nothing new.

    And it is not, as someone wrote above, “unlawful for anyone to possess another’s passport. It’s a criminal offence”. Hotels around the world routinely take a guest’s passport at check-in and return it later. Cruise lines also often collect passports at check-in and don’t return them until disembarkation. (Try crossing between the U.S. and Europe aboard ‘Queen Mary 2’ without surrendering your passport for the length of the voyage…)

    But I most heartily agree with Stuart, who cheekily wrote “I’d run as well if I had to fly PIA the next day.”

  10. @Dick Bupkiss I hope all of these illegal aliens take their talents to Canada. Too bad, the current administration would probably give these illegals a green card; gotta solidify that blue vote, after all.

  11. For the record, if your intention is to claim asylum while you are in Canada, your ability to do so is not impacted by your possession of your passport. (In fact, the fact that it was confiscated from you might strengthen, not weaken your case…).

    If your goal is to just go on an extended holiday and play hookie from work, then get a visa like everyone else.

    There is no human rights issue here with PIA confiscating passports. If you enter Canada as a flight crew member, then you are supposed to leave with your flight. If you intend to claim asylum, then you can do so. If your intention is to immigrate to Canada as an economic migrant by overstaying your crew visa, then sorry, that’s not how it’s done. Get in line.

  12. In some countries, it is the law that non citizens visiting should carry their passports with the appropriate visa stamp or visa paper . This is the legal ID that Authorities and Police may need, to identify if a person is in the country legally or illegally.
    PIA cannot hold passports in this way .

  13. It’s pretty common in other touristic areas. Cruise ship companies collect passports in the US or Canada after immigration is completed since ages. They even go a step further (it used to be like that) and also do not allow to bring laptops and notebooks on shore. Don’t know about the rules today with Pads and Smartphones in the mix. In New York, Miami or Saint John a few guys went missing always. As a person who follow the rules and is against crime (German) I always understood why they are willing to leave their previous life behind. Beeing able to visit places like Goa, Cochin, Karatschi or Chittagong I always catch myself beeing ungreatfull to what I was born into. These people are living hell on earth every day

  14. In many countries, the passport actually belongs to the government and is issued to a person for a specific purpose. If the Pakistan government tells PIA to do this, there is nothing illegal about it nor does it violate any laws at the destination.

    Most of the people sneaking out probably have no plans of going anywhere else given the large number of people of Pakistani origin in countries like Canada and UK. It is not too difficult to get lost within this crowd and survive in the cash economy for some time. Even in the US, data shows that many of the illegal residents came legally on a tourist or similar visa, and then didn’t leave.

  15. Sam is right.
    Asylum is the main motive here (at-least to gain entry) and it helps a lot if the defecting crew member is from troubled area of pakistan, like province of Balochistan or NWFP.
    I suspect PIA will change staffing practices and look closely at ethnicity of crews when scheduling Toronto flights

  16. @Super VC10 Your’e wrong. It’s illegal to hold someone else’s passport. I’m well aware that it’s common practice in many places (and illegal there, too, whether they know it or not) but in Canada police actually know it’s illegal and would take action if called. Common practice and the law aren’t always the same.

    International treaties and conventions cover the legal meaning of a passport, how it’s used, etc. One thing all countries are obliged to do is to punish the holding of another person’s passport by a civilian. And if a proper border/immigration/police person takes your passport in any country, they’re required to return it without undue delay to the embassy of the issuing country.

    The subject might make a cool post.

  17. So, what exactly does holding onto their passport do? Unless the idea is to put them up at the non-existent air-side hotels in Canada, once through immigration the damage is done. Is there evidence that these wayward FAs are trying to leave Canada for a third country?

  18. Not having a passport won’t prevent someone from trying to stay in Canada. The person will have illegal status with or without a passport, unless they have a Canadian visa. Canada can accommodate these folks either way.

  19. PIA does pay them enough to live comfortably. Even if they slip in canada, us or in europe, these days economic circumstances does not permit to take such a risk. Things are pretty tough out there to survive.
    Hope the potential slippers consider the outcome and hardship associated with this move.

  20. @Dick Bupkiss Extremist policies against immigration is something that was imported to the US from Canada. Do you remember Stephen Harper? Indeed it was his election in Canada that fueled anti-immigrant views in North America and paved the way for election of Trump in the US. Of course anti-immigration views reached a new high, like anything else does, in the US. That resulted in a period of time when people started passing the border from US to seek refuge in Canada where now was seeing Justin Trudeau as its president. By the way, Trudeau was reluctant to reverse several anti-immigration policies of Harper, until some reversals (or changes) were pushed by legislators, and others are yet to happen. Biden is much more proactive than Trudeau in reversing the anti-immigration policies of his predecessor.

  21. Basically no security job in PIA people getting letters for laying off,transfer to one location to another is pain , he believes is safe havens for him why not try his best hopefully he be in great hands God’s willing

  22. @Dick Bupkiss I’m not sure how attractive Canada is anymore with its new communist style laws & restrictions.
    I have 2 friends who are moving back to the USA because they want to have the civil liberties offered in the US that are currently being withheld from them in Canada.

  23. @DenB®- Can you support your very firm stance that it is “illegal to hold someone else’s passport?” Any single country may have laws stating as such, but what global legal authority is there that dictates what every country must do? I wish I would have known this in the past when my government employer mandated holding onto my Official and Diplomatic Passport when I wasn’t using it…I would have said, “you can’t do that because it is illegal!!” I wonder what they would have said?

  24. @AD Can you give us a few examples of those “communist style laws & restrictions” that exist in Canada?

  25. In most developed countries, the decision of who is eligible for visa on arrival and those who have to apply beforehand is mainly determined on overstay rates. Some countries, like for instance Pakistan and Afghanistan, are viewed as very high risk. Hence all citizens of such countries need to apply beforehand, and each application is more thoroughly scrutinised. Other factors looked at include gender, age, family situation and financials. A couple in their sixties with no ties to the destination and ok finances will have a higher chance of approval than a single man in his early twenties as the latter is viewed as a much higher risk of overstaying.

  26. Who is to say the flight crew won’t have another foreign passport waiting for them in Canada? Going AWOL is just as good as giving notice to your employer. Employers holding passports is not illegal in many jurisdictions but it can easily lead to conditions such as human trafficking, forced labor, etc.

    PIA also has to show an effort to curb their staff activities abroad. Otherwise, it’s just as easy for the destination to deny future services to Pakistan.

  27. Reminds me of the old communist saying… (which sadly is still operating today) “We are here to protect you.” Answer: “Who are you protecting us from.”

    Someday Navalny will be President and the communist empire will crumble like a line of dominoes.

  28. Pakistan is a shithole country in general ! I am not surprised how they are going to treat their crew knowing the fact that country is very backward !

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