Islamabad, Nov 1 The Pakistan International Airlines' (PIA) last flight from New York left behind two bodies, booked for Lahore, at the JFK Airport to the utter shock of the waiting family members back home.
Expressing regret, PIA spokesperson Mashood Tajwar said that the mistake was committed by the agency providing luggage handling service to the airline on the ground at JFK Airport.
The PIA expressed solidarity with the mourning families. The two coffins were meant to be flown to Lahore on October 28, Dawn online reported.
PIA said it "regrets the inconvenience caused due to negligence on part of the airline's ground handling agency... and expresses its sympathies with the family members of the deceased persons".
It was PIA's last New York-Lahore flight as it had just suspended the route, so Etihad Airlines had to step in.
A man who was accompanying the body of his brother, and his family members who were waiting in Lahore, left for New York to locate the body after waiting for two days for any remedial step by the PIA.
"The grieved family had been agonised," said Hasan Mubarak, a relative, who was to receive the body at Lahore airport.
Mubarak said his cousin Nauman Badar, 28, died in the US on October 25. He said the flight arrived at Lahore airport nearly two hours behind its scheduled landing time. And to the utter horror of the waiting family members the body was not found in the luggage area.
They also came across a family from Sialkot who were also trying to find the body of a relative which was expected to reach Lahore by the same flight.
Mubarak said the bodies were enlisted in the cargo list and it was initially found that they were replaced by luggage containing catering items. The bodies lay unattended at JFK Airport for 14 hours and nobody from the PIA knew where they were.
Mubarak said he and his family members contacted the funeral company that had prepared the coffin which actually found the abandoned bodies.
Finally the body of his cousin was retrieved by the funeral company and was being kept in its morgue.
Mubarak said his family members were agonized by the incident. Due to the lack of any commitment by the PIA (as to) how to retrieve the bodies or to transport them to Pakistan, they had to go to New York.
Mubarak's cousin will be buried in Maryland while the other body was being flown by Etihad Airways to Lahore, PIA's statement said.
PIA said it would look after the transfer arrangements, adding that "all expenses will be borne by PIA".