Several flight attendants from Pakistan have disappeared after landing in Canada

Typically, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight attendants arriving in Toronto spend the night in a hotel, meet their crew the next day, and then fly to their next destination.

But PIA attendants are increasingly no-shows, the airline says. According to PIA, at least eight flight attendants have gone missing over the past year and a half.

They have abandoned their jobs and are believed to have sought asylum in Canada, says a spokesperson for the state airline.

Increase in occurrences

Abdullah Hafeez Khan said at least eight flight attendants “have gone missing” after flying into Pearson International Airport in Toronto. He said these incidents have been occurring for the past 10 years, but are now occurring more frequently.

“Probably since October 2022, the number of people who have opted for asylum has increased tremendously,” Khan said in a video interview with from Karachi, Pakistan, where the airline is based.

“None of the crew members who went missing in the last year and a half have returned. So they were granted asylum in one form or another, and that has probably encouraged others to do so.”

The missing employees were immediately fired and lost company benefits, Khan said.

Why did they flee?

Khan said he could only speculate as to why the flight attendants would flee.

The Canadian government highlighted the volatile situation in Pakistan, warning in a travel advisory of a “high threat of terrorism,” along with threats of civil unrest, sectarian violence and kidnappings.

“The security situation is fragile and unpredictable,” Canada’s travel advisory reads. “Incidents are often attributed to extremism, ethnic divisions, sectarian fighting, regional political disputes and the situation in neighboring Afghanistan.”

He added that there have been many deaths and injuries from bombings, shootings and other terrorist attacks against a wide range of targets.

Since Khan is not in contact with any of the missing employees, he says, he assumes they decided to seek asylum in Canada for economic and social reasons.

“So naturally I assumed that all of them had been given asylum because I don’t think they were living there illegally,” he said, adding that they may already have family connections in Canada that could support them.

In this June 8, 2013 photo, a Pakistan International Airlines plane moments before taking off from Benazir Bhutto Airport in Islamabad, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

‘PR crisis’

Khan called the flight attendants’ disappearances a “PR crisis” for PIA that is “bad” for business amid crew shortages.

The airline is in talks with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Pakistani law enforcement agencies to potentially create a “legal safeguard” to prevent flight crew from seeking asylum, he said.

When asked about the disappearances of the PIA flight attendants, Erin Kerbel, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said the department could not comment on specific cases due to privacy legislation.

Responding to questions about PIA’s claim that discussions are taking place on the issue, a CBSA spokesperson said he could not confirm any information.

“The Canada Border Services Agency does not provide comment or details about specific individuals, including conversations that would take place with airlines, as an individual’s border and immigration information is considered private and is protected by the Privacy Act.” Maria Ladouceur said in an email to

Since the crew members’ disappearances, Khan said, the airline has “done numerous things to limit that.”

For example, the airline only has crew members for Toronto-bound flights who have “established ties” in Pakistan, such as children, spouses or parents, as well as those who have worked at the organization for more than 15 years.

The airline avoids sending people to Toronto who are single or do not have established family ties in Pakistan, he said.

Khan said he and the airline are no longer in contact with the flight attendants because, they discovered, they usually change their phone numbers shortly after disappearing in Toronto.

Who disappeared?

The PIA flight attendants who went missing in Canada are experienced professionals in their 30s and 40s, some of whom have worked for the airline for up to two decades, Khan said.

“There was never any sign that they would pursue something like that,” he said. “So that’s something that bothers us because working with people who have been working with you for a long time and then something like this happens is pretty unexpected.”

In one of the latest cases in February, crew members were waiting to take the bus back to the airport from their hotel in Toronto and one of the flight attendants didn’t show up, Khan said.

The airline was unable to contact the flight attendant on her cell phone or the hotel’s landline, so Khan says they asked hotel management to check if she was okay.

“When the team went there, she left her uniform there with a note that said, ‘Thank you PIA,'” Khan said, which he interpreted as a genuine feeling of gratitude for her more than 15 years of service at PIA rather than a derision. .

Khan said the missing crew members were “people with family values” who had good careers in Pakistan.

Asylum policies

People can file an asylum application in Canada at a port of entry upon arrival or online if they are already in Canada, according to the Canadian government website.

Canadian immigration or border officials will determine if the person is eligible for a hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board. All applicants must undergo health and safety checks, the government says.

If eligible to file a claim in Canada, refugee claimants can access social assistance, education, health services, emergency housing and legal assistance pending a decision on their claim. Most can apply for a work permit after a medical examination.

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