Man booked to fly on crashed PK-8303 saved by system error

Syed Mustafa Ahmed photographed in Lahore during coronavirus rescue and relief work on May 8, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Syed Mustafa Ahmed)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Man booked to fly on crashed PK-8303 saved by system error

  • Digital marketer and philanthropist tried three times to book himself on ill-fated PIA flight
  • The airbus A320 crashed into colony of homes on Friday afternoon, with 97 people confirmed dead

LAHORE: Syed Mustafa Ahmed tried three times on Thursday to confirm payment online for seat 13-A on Pakistan International Airlines flight PK-8303 from Lahore to Karachi, but each time, a system error stopped him from finalizing the booking. 
Ahmed was desperate-- he needed to get into Karachi on Friday before the 5 p.m. coronavirus lockdowns cut off transport links and the PIA flight was his best bet.
“I booked myself on seat 13-A, but when the payment option came, there was a system error. I tried three times, but in the last step, the website just wouldn’t let me pay and confirm my booking,” Ahmed told Arab News via telephone.
Frustrated, he called a friend who worked in a different airline to help him sort the issue out. 
“I have a friend who works in Serene Airlines, and I told him I need to take this flight. I asked him for his help with the booking. We tried again, but it just wasn’t happening.”
On Friday afternoon, the A320 Airbus Ahmed had been desperately trying to get aboard crashed into a congested colony of homes moments before its scheduled landing in Karachi killing 97 people on board. Two survivors were pulled from the wreckage.

A screen grab of Ahmed's Pakistan International Airlines PK-8303 booking before a system error stopped him from completing payment on May 21, 2020.

The Karachi-based owner of digital marketing social enterprise, MMarkent, had just returned to Lahore from Gilgit after spending 90 days away from home as part of coronavirus relief efforts for a child and animal rescue and relief campaign he runs called Servants of Humanity-- which he says is inspired by the life of Abdus Sattar Edhi.
“I was impatient to get back home to Karachi to get started on the packing and distribution of Eid packages for over a hundred orphaned children we sponsor around the city,” Ahmed said. 
“I wanted the PIA flight because its timings ensured I landed before the 5 p.m. citywide lockdown. When I was unable to proceed ahead with payment, my friend at Serene told me to travel on his free ticket with his airline instead-- except the flight would leave at 4 p.m. Thursday.”
“I was hesitant, because this would mean I would land later than I wanted. But he insisted I take him up on his offer and consider the money I saved as an Eid donation for the children we sponsored. And so I agreed,” he said.

Mustafa Ahmed in Lahore's Allama Iqbal Town as part of relief work during coronavirus curfews in March 2020. (Photo courtesy: Syed Mustafa Ahmed)

Once Ahmed had landed safely in Karachi on Thursday evening, a google alert pinged on his phone.
“It said the system error had been dealt with and would I like to proceed with my PIA booking. By then, I was already home.”
“When the plane crashed this afternoon, I was overwhelmed with phone calls from friends and family. I’d forgotten to tell many of them I was taking an earlier flight. They thought I was on PK-8303,” Ahmed said.
“I suppose you could call it luck, but it shows me that while we are making our plans, God has other plans for us-- and God had planned that today, this flight was not for me.”

Airbus team to arrive in Pakistan for PIA plane crash investigation

Updated 25 May 2020

Airbus team to arrive in Pakistan for PIA plane crash investigation

  • A PIA flight crashed near the Karachi airport on Friday with 99 people on board
  • Authorities in Pakistan have already constituted a team that is investigating the cause of the crash

ISLAMABAD: A team of European aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, will arrive in Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi, tonight to help investigate the PIA plane crash on Friday, Pakistan’s state-run media reported.
A PIA A320 Airbus, which flew from Lahore to Karachi, crashed in a congested residential area near the Jinnah International Airport on May 22 minutes before landing.
Two passengers miraculously survived in the tragic incident that claimed the lives of 97 people on board. No fatalities were reported on the ground, however, where several houses were damaged in a narrow street.
“The (Airbus) team will visit the (crash) site in the Model Colony area of the city as shifting of the plane’s debris from the site has also been stopped,” Radio Pakistan reported.
Pakistan’s seven-member team has already started investigating the incident.
It was the second PIA plane crash in less than four years. In 2016, a domestic flight of the national air career from Chitral to Islamabad crashed in a hilly area in which all 47 passengers and crew members lost their lives.
Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said after the crash that “Captain Sajjad Gull (who was flying the plane) was senior most A320 pilot with extensive flight experience.” He added that “the aircraft involved in the crash was 16 years old and was in a very good condition.”
According to the minister, the A320 joined the PIA fleet on dry lease six years ago and underwent its major A-check in March 2020.
“The aircraft carried out eight flights since 21st March, 2020, when the domestic and international flights were suspended in view of efforts to control the spread of COVID-19,” he informed.