A terror scare


The incident on flight PK-709

Air travel hasn’t been the same after 9/11, particularly for the people of South Asian and Arabic origin. In an environment where a seven-year-old boy is stopped three times in the US from boarding a flight just because he shared name with another suspect, a family squabble such as the one that happened on flight PK-709 en route to Manchester, UK, was bound to cause an even bigger reaction, considering that the UK is already on high alert after a soldier was beheaded on a street in London three days ago. However, the positive that one can come out of this episode is that no one was hurt and the threat wasn’t serious after all.

News reports say that not just one but two incidents of disruption that took place on the plane; one involving a family altercation which after investigation the Essex police has cleared of any terrorism related threat, the second one involving two men who tried to enter the pilot cabin were held on endangering the plane. One wonders if the men had only reacted to the family squabble and their approaching the cockpit was a case of simple misunderstanding; if so, they shouldn’t have done it and caused trouble to all the passengers, not to speak of the alarm they caused to the British government and their defence department. However, if they indeed had ulterior motives, the pilot’s timely action – some would disagree to the notion saying the pilot overreacted – might have prevented any untoward situation from happening. However, considering that the PIA staff is perhaps not trained to handle such situations, what the pilot did, by raising a terror alert, was surely an overreaction to a situation that was criminal in nature, instead of terrorism related.

Air travel safety, pretty much like road travel safety, is a joint responsibility of passengers, pilot, and air travel safety authorities in their respective countries. The British authorities took a timely action by escorting the plane to an airport already designated to handle such emergency situations but there are questions regarding how responsibly the passengers and the pilot acted in the whole episode. The passengers should have been a bit more careful of their behaviour knowing well that the Britain was already on alert after a terror incident only three days ago. Moreover, it is incidents like these that put the country in a negative light, something we can’t really afford anymore. PIA, on its part, needs to train its staff to handle situations of the sort if they want to hold their head high.