Delay in Gilani flight departure being probed

July 29th, 2008 - 1:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, July 29 (IANS) A committee has been formed to probe why the departure of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s US-bound special flight from London Sunday was delayed by an hour. The committee, comprising representatives of the Pakistan High Commission in London and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), will also “fix responsibility” for the delay, Dawn said Tuesday in a dispatch from London.

The flight was to depart at 10.30 a.m. but could get clearance only at around 11 a.m. after the personal intervention of Pakistani High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan, who talked to top officials at the British Foreign Office. The plane finally took off at around 11.30 a.m.

“The delay in the take off at Heathrow and dark clouds over Washington are said to have caused the flight to miss the arrival schedule at the Andrews Air Force base by not more than 15 minutes,” Dawn said.

Questioned about the delay, Hasan attributed this to a breakdown in communications.

“The Heathrow authorities had allotted a 5.30 p.m. slot for the PM’s flight instead of 10.30 a.m. and this we came to know only when we were already half way to the airport,” he added.

According to the original schedule, Gilani was not meant to stop over in London but halt briefly in Manchester while the aircraft was being refuelled.

“However, for some as-yet-unknown reasons a last minute change was made and stopover arrangements were made in London. While doing so, it seems the communication link broke down at some point and the agency responsible for intimating the Heathrow authorities about the ETD (estimated time of departure) ‘forgot’ about it,” Dawn said.

Asked why a committee had been formed when no major damage had been caused, the high commissioner said “he was taking precaution for the future so that no such goof ups take place again”, Dawn said.

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