Pakistan International Airlines is investigating how seven additional passengers boarded a flight and were permitted to stand in the aisles on a flight to Saudi Arabia, the BBC reports.
The passengers were allowed on the flight on Friday 20 January to the holy city of Madina despite capacity being filled, a PIA spokesperson said.
The Pakistani newspaper “Dawn” carried out extensive investigations which led to the flight details being publicised.
PIA staff had also issued additional handwritten boarding passes, the Dawn reported.
An over-crowded flight could have caused issues in an emergency evacuation, aviation experts said, and passengers would not have had access to oxygen if it was required.
This is the first time PIA is known to have boarded excess passengers on a flight.
The flight which went from Karachi to Medina carried a total of 416 passengers on a Boeing 777 with a total seating capacity of 409, including staff seats.
Dawn accused Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority of “not taken punitive action against the airline or its staffers for putting the passengers’ lives at risk”.
The newspaper quoted airline sources who accused PIA ground traffic staff of issuing handwritten – as opposed to computerised – boarding passes to the additional passengers.
It quotes flight captain Anwer Adil as stating that he was not informed about the extra passengers until after take-off.
“I … noticed [that] some people were those who were categorically refused jump [staff] seats by me at the check-in counter before the flight”, he was quoted by Dawn as saying.
“I had already taken off and the senior purser did not inform me about extra passengers before closing the aircraft door.
“Therefore after take-off [any] immediate landing back at Karachi was not possible as it required a lot of fuel dumping which was not in the interest of the airline.”
PIA spokesman Danyal Gilani told the BBC that “the matter is under investigation and appropriate action will be taken once responsibility is fixed”.
When asked how long the inquiry will take, he said it was “not possible to put a time frame on it”.