According to company sources, a flight attendant for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has gone missing while on a layover in Paris. Apparently, the female member of cabin crew who is only known by her first name Shazia left a resignation letter in her hotel room and fled to Belgium after she operated the PIA flight to the French capital from her native hometown of Lahore.
It’s all rather reminiscent of a similar incident last year where a PIA flight attendant operated a flight to Canada and then claimed asylum in the country. According to sources quoted by Geo News, the airline has opened an investigation into the latest incident.
You might wonder why a flight attendant would want to do a runner when they’ve got a secure, well-paid job which in some countries is very much a highly sought after and high-status profession. But it actually happens a lot more than you might think and it makes sense really…
Flight attendants get to travel the world – they get to immerse themselves in different cultures and experience things that may be banned or frowned upon in their own country. They might realise that their future as a flight attendant is time-limited and don’t think the prospects in their own country are looking too promising.
There are just so many legitimate reasons why someone might want to abandon their country for a better life somewhere else. Flight attendants who find themselves in this situation not only get a free ride to a new country but they get to enter no questions asked.
This happens on a semi-regular basis – especially in countries like the United States, Canada and UK where flight attendants typically from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and China have been known to ‘disappear’ and claim asylum. It never normally makes the news but it does happen.
In fact, this isn’t some spur of the moment decision on the part of the flight attendants. Often times they use their status as a flight attendant for months to research different countries, scope out different opportunities, make contacts, and save up money. A flight attendant in this situation will have travelled to the country they intend to stay in many times.
Obviously, this doesn’t happen so often that airlines are constantly losing staff at foreign outstations – although, some airlines are more prone to this happening than others. It’s mostly just embarrassing for the airline but it can cause tensions with local immigration authorities and put other staff under greater scrutiny.
There is also a reverse version of this scenario which has affected airlines with a lot of expat staff. In particular, Qatar Airways found that cabin crew would use a flight as a free ticket to their home country, abandoning the airline during a layover without so much as a resignation letter. They would simply cut their losses and restart their life.
It got so bad that at one point Qatar Airways was said to be avoiding rostering cabin crew of certain nationalities on flights to their home city.