Rats – Flying Companions?

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If you guys are anything like my friend, Z, I’m sure yesterday’s article, “Great Rats to Fly with: PIA” in ‘The News’ left you pretty disgusted. In case you haven’t read it – check out http://thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=23140   

Z sent me a piece he had written about his experience. Thought you guys would find it amusing!

P.S. No matter how scary the thought of a rat-infested plane ride may be, I can’t seem to get rid of my soft spot for PIA – how else could I travel directly from London to Islamabad? Where else would I consume such delicious palak gosht?!

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The holidays are here and my entire family have decided to abandon me and go off and visit The Homeland. This means that Muggins has to lift and drag forty kilo suitcases down the stairs and into the car boot. One then proceeds to the wonderful Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport and does it all again.  Heathrow is chaos, it starts at the airport and that is just the tip of the chaotic iceberg.  You queue for the lifts as you have to heave two luggage laden, (that’s pronounced LAY-DUN not LAADUN) trolleys to the lower floor. This is the check-in floor and it’s like the world has ended with a frown on every face and people running amock in all directions. I was the same, as soon as I realised that the queue for Emirates was winding half way round the terminal.  I queued for an hour and a half before we got to the check-in desk. During this time the family ahead of us were served a MacDonalds’ supper by one of their sons as they waited. I met a friend in the same queue and after a while she got the gist of what I was telling her – ie. that I was only queuing to help my parents shift the ninety kilo trolleys and that as soon as they had checked in I would go back home, having paid a tenner for parking. I was getting used to this as I had done the same a week ago when my wife left. “Whaaaaaaaaaaaat??” she yelled, “You mean you’re not even flying?? What a loooossseeerrrr!!!” I guess that just about summed me up. 

That was outward bound. Then I had the inward bound chaos to contend with. It was even worse….

I’d like to think that I am quite efficient when it comes to my airport trips. Once PIA’ed, twice shy.  I phone up in advance to ensure the flight is on time. I even check it on Teletext, just in case. I even rang my wife’s parents to make sure she had gotten on the flight itself. No, that’s not being a compulsive obsessive pedant, they often refuse passengers at the check-in desks there just in case passengers haven’t confirmed and re-confirmed and re-re-confirmed their tickets.

On this occasion, PK 785 was due to arrive late at 9.00pm instead of 3.00pm. By the time I checked again, it was 9.30pm. So now this ‘direct’ flight is a whole six and a half hours late and no one seems to know where it is, and frankly I am a tad worried by this stage as where could the plane have gone. If it hasn’t stopped elsewhere and it was a direct flight and left on time, then where was it? “Eeet eez due to arraaiiive at nine tatty that’s aall, bas” is the reply I got from the PIA office.

By the time I get to Arrivals the expected time of arrival is 9.45pm.  After a while it says ‘Landed’.  And after a longer while I expect to read “PK 785 Baggage in Hall” as for the other flights. Instead I get a blank line for PK 785. So now we are completely in the dark. Did the plane land? Was it beamed up by Scotty? If it did, where was my wife? Indeed where was any ‘Pak’enger?

I am now waiting with all the others in anticipation and I can hardly bear to be in the spot I’m in because someone smells. I’m sorry, but whoever it was, their washing machine had broken down, in fact it had been broken down for some time now! Then suddenly, amongst all of us tired mortals there appeared a (Naoozubilla) God-like figure beyond the opaque screen. It was none other than our very own Export of the Century, Mr Imran Khan.

Of course the entire population in Terminal 3 broke into spontaneous applause as if we were at a test match or something and then half of them started running after him, for autographs I guess. Poor man, (well, not literally), he even hid round the corner as he waited for the lift before endeavouring to depart hastily and unnoticed! That was the highlight of the night (now morning) for most of us, it seemed. It was another hour before my wife turned up but that was my highlight, sorry if you are throwing up at this stage!

 So where had the plane been for nearly seven extra hours? Well apparently the Pakistani army were using half the runway in Islamabad so the plane could not be fully fuelled. They had decided to take off and land the direct flight from Islamabad in Karachi for re-fuelling where there had been further delays of the chaotic variety! My wife was not amused. In fact I think she was in shock. Apparently the little boy next to her had ‘kicked’ her shins during the entire flight with his muddy shoes……and yes the mud had actually crumbled and fallen off too as it dried in the heat!

“Never again” we cry in repent, “I am NEVER sitting on another PIA flight again, EVER” we say. But alas come Christmas time, we all become desperados and as everything in the world seems to be booked up airlines-wise we, no doubt, will end up boarding another, ‘PIA ki parvaaz PK something or the other’ again, happily, relieved that we are off to the ‘Vathan’ once more!

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12 comments

  1. Ting tong khawateeno hazraat apni hifaazatti bund ko baand leejheeyay…

  2. feras · · Reply

    FREAKIN HILLARIOUS!! i read the article and i thought it was so freakin funney..

  3. That was hilarious, especially the part where the waiting crowd applauded Imran Khan walking out of the arrival gates! Brilliant!

  4. Nadia Rahman · · Reply

    Omar, I read the piece in the news yesterday. Truly traumatizing. I can’t even begin to imagine having to sit with your legs up the entire flight, for the fear of having your feet gnawed on by rats. Tobah! Definitely a worse prospect then what I once had to endure on a PIA flight: About 10 minutes after the flight took off from Islamabad to London, the water in all the toilets finished. i.e. NOBODY out of all the couple of hundreds on the flight could use the loo for the entire duration (what is it, 6/7 hours?) of the flight. Imagine. Great people to fly with, indeed!

  5. Nadia Rahman Khan · · Reply

    Omar, here’s my second shot at writing here:

    I read the article in the news yesterday. Truly traumatizing. I can’t even begin to imagine having to spend all those hours sitting with your legs up, for the fear of having your feet gnawed on by rats. Tobah! Reminds me of the time at university when our kitchen got infested by tiny mice. I used to study in there sometimes, and was once sitting there before the exams and after seeing the tiniest mouse peek out from under the fridge, I screamed up a storm after climbing on the kitchen table. I got no sympathy from any of my flatmates once they discovered me there. Just camera flashes as they decided to record the apparently hilarious image for future black-mail.

    But on a plane. That too- RATS, and not mice. Not nice, not nice. Definitely trumps what I thought was the worst flying condition to go through: On a PIA flight from Islamabad to London a few years ago, exactly 10 minutes after take off, all the toilets o the plane got clogged up and the water in them finished. Meaning that NOBODY out of the couple of hundreds could use the loo for the entire duration (what is it- 6/7 hours?) of the flight. Imagine. Great (constipated) people to fly with, indeed!

  6. Where else could you get away with smoking at the back of the plane?

  7. Dircet Flight indeed.. Happened way back when in 1990 or so. was supposed to be direct flight from ISB to Schiphol/amsterdam.. but surprise surpise half way through the plane landed in Istanbul. spent some 5 hours on the ground there. No explanation was ever offered. damn near missed our connection as well…

    On another occasion was supposed to fly with PIA (again) karachi–>Cairo. at the checkincounter the airline staff informed me that the particular flight I had the tickets for wasnt going to land in cairo.. instead it would fly direct to Rome! I gathered the reason was that there was only one other passenger besides myself who was getting off in Cairo and noone was getting on so.. too bad! However there would be a flight 2 days later.. Ofcourse at that point I threw a stern but civilized tantrum and asked for the guy who runs things… after a tense chat with the manager, they replaced my tickets with Emirates +business class, that was leaving a few hours later with a connection in Dubai… In the end not bad. I was some 8 hours late getting to cairo though..But I got there. SO with PIA always be prepared for something extra and dont plan on any tight connections/transfers at the destination.

  8. I wouldn’t be surprised with any flight lifting off from London’s Heathrow, the city is well known for its rodent inhabitants.

    Speaking of PIA, I’ve taken countless Manchester-Islamabad flights, the first time I flew on my own was at 15yrs. I can seriously say (alhamdulillah) my PIA experiences have been problem free, easy, and non-daunting. Having flown British Airways, Saudia Airlines and Air France; the latter three were what made me appreciate PIA that much more. The pilots were slowcoaches, took forever to take off/land. So much turbulence throughout the journey, massive headaches as a result – food made me sick and arrived at least an hour later than expected times.
    Whereas with PIA we’d get there at sometimes up to an hour earlier than expected and the food is scrumptious, the pilots are freakin A*! No turbulence whatsoever – oh and the flight attendants are friendlier.

    Those are my experiences anyway, I suppose everyone else’s experiences can differ.

    Not to mention the lovely, compassionate trainee pilot who saved my life (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration there) when I was 15.

  9. Supe, thanks for your comment. I’d love to hear about the time the trainee pilot saved your life! Please elaborate!

  10. Aah, it’s not really a biggie, but at the time, it mattered.
    I was boarding a direct flight from Islamabad to Manc, completely alone.
    We had to attach tags onto our hand luggage after they’d been cleared at security. Whilst boarding the flight, personnel were checking our bags and it turns out my tags had fallen off. They then began turning me away, saying I couldn’t board unless I had a tag on my luggage, I obviously panicked and was going to start bawling my eyes out, I refused to run back to the gates to ask for the tags/have the bags re-checked afraid the flight would leave without me. I was nervous as it was. Then this young, friendly trainee pilot guy, appeared and volunteered to bring back some tags. Sure enough, within seconds he was back with a handful of them, and he fixed a couple on my bags securely and nobody argued with him. Aww, so sweet!
    Now would you get those kind of random acts of kindness from any other airline’s crews?

  11. Wow, I actually have a similar story. I was at Heathrow Airport and I bought a pair of shoes for my brother from dutyfree as I was on my way to Pakistan to meet him. I left the bag of shoes where i was sitting and departed the duty free area and was standing on the other side of the “line”. I remembered the bag and started running back when 2 police officers attacked me and almost handcuffed me. I could see that damn bag of shoes and was pointing it and they said that they cant help me as ive crossed the line to go towards the flight and that I wasnt allowed to get the bag back. They also said that since the bag was left alone, it might have something in it and they will have to get the security to check it out. I was so irritated as I had saved up to buy these damn shoes for my brother and I was wasting away that money right in front of my eyes (literally).
    I then walked towards PIA and told the captain my story. He was furious and he said they should have given it back to me. I dont know what he did and who he spoke to but when I was sitting on the plane and fastening my seat belt, a police officer came inside the plane and handed me the bag of shoes.
    God bless PIA.

  12. God bless PIA indeed!
    People also like to whinge about Isb airport, I haven’t had a problem with that airport either, not once have any employees there asked me for money. I’m also on first name terms with some of the coolies there, they know I can perfectly well manage my own luggage! Haha!

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