Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) pilots refused to return stranded Pakistanis from Iraq after two pilots and a flag carrier stewardess tested positive for coronavirus.

PK-9813, which traveled from Islamabad to Baghdad, was supposed to fly back 161 Pakistanis who gathered from various Iraqi cities at Baghdad Airport.

The flight should depart for Baghdad at 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning, but should still depart from 12 p.m.

The pilots were reportedly unable to arrive at the airport despite the pledge from the PIA CEO and other officials regarding the provision of protective equipment.

The rejection came after a persistent standoff between the PIA and the Pakistan Air Line Pilots’ Association (Palpa) after the three crew members became infected with the virus. They were on board the recent special flight that was to bring stranded Pakistanis back from Canada.

The association also protested the PIA’s failure to provide safety equipment for the airline crew.

Earlier this month, hundreds of Pakistani citizens, including students stranded in Turkey, were waiting for the government’s flight plan to be approved to return home by April 11, officials said.

Abdullah Khan, general manager of public affairs for the PIA, said the national airline submitted a daily flight schedule for government approval, and Turkey was on the list of countries receiving special flights to bring stranded people back.

“We brought back 8,000 people from Saudi Arabia and 194 passengers from Turkey.”

Khan announced that before boarding these special flights with N95 masks and protective equipment, the flight crew will be medically tested and quarantined for six weeks if they get off the plane.

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