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.
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.
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.”