Stories about airport

Islamabad scareport

For the purpose of this tale, I’ll describe the reception area at Islamabad airport as an horizontal U in a space the size of two large kitchens. Stood at the beginning of the left hand column of the U is a security guard for the first security check. Walk through this and along to the curve at the bottom of the U. That’s where (on its outer perimeter) there’s a long table. Behind it are five customs officers in front of it are four queues waiting to have their bags searched.  Walk past this and you’ll swerve up the right hand part of the U parallel to the left – ...

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Be alert at the Jinnah International Airport!

For quite some time now, we have been hearing of people getting mugged and deprived of their suitcases after exiting the Jinnah International Airport. This is especially true for the passengers of long haul flights. Usually the victims arrive by midnight or early morning, when it’s convenient for the criminals to strike without being spotted. Recently, when I travelled to Karachi from the US, I noticed that a group of shady looking men were offering help in handling baggage near the pickup area and one of them even picked one of my bags and proceeded to put  in my car ...

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Can’t have it your way

I once worked as a customer service agent for a reputable airline out of Chicago’s international airport. My job was to board the aircraft and resolve issues like lost children, racist groups and controlling wives and suited men throwing tantrums. I saw people of all breeds. Because Chicago is called the Windy City, flight delays due to weather were frequent. One night, a 7:00pm flight was given a 12:00am departure time. Passengers screamed and roared and we repeatedly apologised. Close to departure, the flight was cancelled. “I regret to inform you, Flight 2345 has been cancelled. We apologise for the inconvenience. Please ...

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The Hajis from our tax money

Dear readers, I would like to share my experience with all of you about my journey back from Jeddah, after performing Hajj, which transpired on our very own national carrier; Pakistan International Airline (PIA). Contrary to our journey there, the way back from the holy land was a bit different. It was different because due to some reason -better known to our tour operator – we were bumped up to the so called VIP flight carrying our royalty (parliamentarians and bureaucrats). The flight got delayed, like any other flight on PIA, but to my utmost relief and disbelief, the seat ...

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Airport travelers: Friends afar

There’s something magical about letting yourself disappear in the music of your mind and losing your heart to absolute strangers in their conversations, their actions and their journeys. Like a ghost, I sit on one too many buses and trains just observing people. I take mental notes about their mannerisms when they’re not watching. I make up stories about where they may be headed, who their lovers may be and what they might have overcome in their lives. I fall in love with some and end up hating others. And though we never even exchange a single word or glimpse, I ...

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Lahore from Karachi eyes

After spending seven great days in Lahore, I am convinced that Lahore, being the cultural hub of the country, is one of the most beautiful cities of Pakistan. I applaud the chief minister of Punjab, who despite having a barrage of flaws in his governance, especially with regards to health, education and law and order sectors, has successfully been able to maintain the beauty of this city. Unlike any other provincial government, the government of Punjab makes a conscious effort to give beautification the priority that it deserves by strictly adhering to a no-graffiti policy; hence we are greeted with beautiful and clean walls as seen in ...

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Smiling through a bad day

I disembarked the airplane thinking of how discontent I was with the 35 hour journey. I was determined to write letters of complaint to the involved airline for their disorganized conduct. Now, I had a total of 12 hours of nothing to do. I felt vexed and disgusted.  I found a secluded bench, dropped my bag, and sat down to engage in what travelers typically do at airports – people-watching.  After looking around for several hours, I came across an elderly gentleman who would not stop smiling. It seemed that nothing could faze this man.  He entertained a couple to whom ...

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The PIA problem

This article is not written with the intent of defending President Asif Ali Zardari or his party.It aims to illustrate how the hyper personalisation of politics and governance in Pakistan has created unachievable expectations for quick fixes, based on overly simplistic explanations of state failure. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is an illustration of perhaps the biggest disservice the president has done for his country; he allowed himself to become a lightning rod for every explanation of state failure. By explaining the poor performance of the state to the person who occupies the Presidency, we overlook the many structural, underlying and historical reasons that perpetuate state failure. The dominant ...

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Inside Africa: Why the Indus is longer than the Nile (for some Pakistanis)

Pakistani expats are a strange breed. Their passports are as green as yours and mine but something still sets them apart: their perceptions. Their comparisons between Pakistan and their country of residence are more objective and less cutting. Expats are essentially loners, travellers permanently stuck in places, who still attend functions thrown by the Pakistani embassy, but speak the local language more than Urdu. They’re not amusingly confused like American desis and they won’t bring you back gifts from airport duty shops like your Dubai cousins. The only thing they’re good for, in fact what they’re best at, is breaking ...

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Don’t ask, don’t tell

Summers in Lahore are not a cup of tea for us Karachiites. Here in Karachi your face is perpetually damp with humidity. Come Lahore, there’s no sweat, parched lips and your throat’s begging for fluids. Naturally, flights in this disapproving season are not a merry affair. But as I collect my luggage and walk towards the small office to rent a cab back home, the only soothing thought is lying down in bed and feeling at home. However, my cab driver seems to be oblivious to the testing surrounding conditions. He is hyperactive. He flashes me a warm smile. I ...

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