30-hour ordeal of 400 Saudia passengers ends


Some 400 Riyadh-bound passengers stranded at the Islamabad airport for 30 hours arrived at the King Khalid International Airport (KKIA) on Saturday morning after their plane finally took off from Pakistan.

The Saudia flight SV723 from Islamabad to Riyadh was originally scheduled to depart from Islamabad at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

“The Saudia ground staff at the Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport announced a delay Thursday night citing technical problems with the aircraft. But the delay extended well beyond the initial few hours,” said Shahid Akhtar M. Ayoob, a passenger who is still waiting for his luggage to arrive.

Saudia officials including Abdullah Al-Azhar, spokesman of the Saudi Arabian Airlines, did not respond to several calls and text messages. Asked about the problems faced by the stranded passengers, Ayoob said that his two cousins had also lost their luggage. “We have lodged a formal complaint with Saudia about the missing luggage,” he added. Ayoob said that the ground staff had made a mockery of the flight.

“First it was scheduled to leave at 6 p.m. on Thursday, and while we were waiting at the boarding gate, we were told that the flight will leave for Riyadh at 2 p.m. Friday,” said another passenger.

“On Friday, the departure of the Saudia flight was pushed to 6 p.m. and then to 9 pm…and then the passengers were later informed that the flight is scheduled for 11 p.m. on Saturday,” said Ehsan Ullah Tarin, whose wife was also on board the same plane. Moreover, the passengers were asked to board the plane twice and were disembarked both times before they finally flew to Riyadh, he noted.

Some women and children became sick and developed symptoms of diarrhea and nausea said another passenger, while complaining about the poor sanitation at Islamabad airport.

Coincidentally, the Internet rating site “Guide to Sleeping in Airports” released its annual list of the “Worst Airports of 2014” on Saturday, with Islamabad airport heading the list.


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