While the country of Pakistan has had its fair share of bad press over the last decade, its airline is quite another story and one full of potential.
I’ve never arrived at an airport without a ticket before, but there’s always a first time and this is it. Having ruled others out, there’s a temptation in waiting for the Emirates A380, but it will take a night at the airport to make it happen. Besides it would also arrive in Hong Kong too late for the connecting train into mainland China and up to Beijing. I am aware of the PIA flight but as it’s within the hour of leaving, don’t think I’ve got a hope of catching it. The offer however is good and a mad dash ensues to reclaim my left luggage from the nearby Novotel where I’ve been utilising their business suite. I make it back but I’m drenched in sweat. The woman at check in scrutinizes every last stamp in my passport as if there is all the time in the world. Eventually, they issue my ticket and I’m off like a bolt through passport control.
Hmmm, what could PIA possibly be like? They are so intriguing I can’t believe I’m going to sample this dark green and cream enigma at first hand. At the gate, the A310 sits waiting dutifully outside. We are a little late boarding. Inside the bearded captain not only greets me but grabs my boarding pass from my hand and emphatically directs me to my seat! The cabin crew are equally courteous – more so than some of the supposedly more superior airlines I have travelled with. Granted the A310 is a little tired in its appearance. There is no in flight magazine though the crew do offer a choice of papers. There is no state of the art in seat screen but there is ample leg room for an economy seat. The carpet is OK but the toilet is a bit dirty (more a fault of the passengers than the airline) and has a flush louder than Metallica’s last offering. Far from heavy metal is the cabin music – a kind of danceable shuffle with prominent sitar; Pakistani house music if you like.
Strangely for all it lacks, the crew really are a shining example of what customer service can be and for most other carriers, should be. I ring the bell and the hostess is there like a shot of lightning – much better than the likes of other leading Arabic airlines. For the first time in ages the choice of meal is NOT chicken or fish but Beef Stroganoff! Not likely to trouble any culinary awards but definitely signs of a carrier that can think outside the box. The dessert is a Swedish dish made of milk, rice and almonds. The same hostess makes an effort to find out what it’s called. Again for economy class this is silver service indeed. The airline has no idea I’m a journalist so I know it’s nothing but genuine customer warmth and one that I’m happy to recommend. Usually a slogan is nothing but words but in PIA’s case ‘Great People to Fly With’ is pretty accurate. The emphasis is on the word ‘fly’ but I think it should be ‘great people.’ And they are.