Profile & Things

Neerja Bhanot

Neerja Bhanot was a senior flight purser for Pan Am who was killed while saving passengers from heavily armed terrorists on board the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 at Karachi airport on 5 September 1986. The flight, carrying among members of other nationalities, Indians, Germans, Americans, and Pakistanis, was supposed to depart for Frankfurt and onward to New York City. But shortly before take-off, the flight was hijacked while it was parked on the tarmac at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. When the armed terrorists barged into the plane, the young woman displayed great presence of mind in alerting the cockpit crew who managed to escape. As the senior-most crew member remaining on board, Neerja took it upon herself to protect the lives of the passengers to the best of her abilities. The daughter of a journalist, Neerja had just escaped from an abusive marriage and was struggling to establish herself in a career. Becoming the senior flight purser for Pan Am at the young age of 22 was a big achievement for her and she took her responsibilities very seriously. She could have escaped along with the other staff but she chose to remain on board helping the passengers escape. The brave woman was killed while shielding three children from the terrorists. She was posthumously awarded India's highest peacetime military award for bravery, the Ashok Chakra.