“Please be aware that the closest goat sacrifice may be behind your row.”
After one of their ATR-42 turboprop planes crashed in Havelian, Pakistan on December 7th and another had to abort its takeoff after an engine malfunction, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) grounded its ATR fleet for investigations and testing. 11 days later, they were back in the air, having been re-approved for flight. On Sunday, December 18th, some PIA employees — in an act that was probably a mix of gratitude and not wanting to take any chances — sacrificed a black goat prior to the first ATR-42 flight after their grounding.
As you would expect, the sacrifice, which was conducted on the open tarmac, right beside the plane, drew attention and mockery worldwide.
It wasn’t PIA’s idea to bring a goat into the mix. Airline spokesperson Danyal Gillani issued what was no doubt the first airline statement about goat sacrifice in the history of aviation: “It was done by some local employees as a gesture of gratitude over the clearance of the first ATR [for flying].” Animal sacrifice is a part of Islamic tradition and can be found in other religions as well (see Leviticus 23:19).
And the goat’s color was significant. Some Pakistanis believe that a black goat is particularly effective as a way to counteract black magic and the evil eye.
Aviation sources say animal sacrifice ahead of a flight is not something new. They say the staff of two private airlines had also slaughtered goats before resuming flights following two deadly air crashes in 2010 and 2012.
“But this one was done in a reckless manner. When you slaughter an animal in the middle of a major airport next to an aircraft, it is bound to attract attention,” said an office-bearer of the Pakistan International Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA).
“When the staff starts seeking divine intervention, it means something is seriously wrong that needs to be fixed,” he added.
Then there was the expected social media jokes:
If a black cat walks infront of PIA plane, will they still fly that plane?
— sabirnazar (@sabirnazar1) December 19, 2016
Only in Pakistan does a plane crash mean that PIA’s due diligence will involve animal sacrifice before take off! #BloodSacrificeOverScience
— Maria Amir (@Beentherella) December 18, 2016
If only they’ll sacrifice a corrupt politician each time an ATR plane flies Pakistan will be a much better place in span of months.
— Justice on Holidays (@Jazzsulehri) December 18, 2016
In spite of the fact that the plane did make it to its destination and back safely, this bit of news probably won’t help the airline’s reputation. In air traveller circles, Pakistan International Airlines’ short name, PIA, has been backronymmed into the joke names “Please Inform Allah” and “Perhaps I’ll Arrive”.