KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has recorded a loss of Rs2.2 billion in March due to suspension of flights from different routes because of the spreading coronavirus, a source said.
This came despite the fact that many air travellers were seeking to fly through PIA, which achieved 100% seat occupancy.
Flights have been suspended on several routes including the most important ones such as China, Kuwait, Qatar, Italy, Japan and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has suspended flights for only 72 hours ending at 3pm on Sunday.
The Saudi Arabian government also told Umrah pilgrims to leave the country, prompting them to immediately book airline seats. PIA was one of the few airlines offering its services to them.
There were around 40,000 Umrah pilgrims. About 18,000 came through PIA and Airblue while others reached home with the help of other airlines.
‘Mothers advised not to bring children’ as PIA shuts baby daycare centre in Karachi
On the other hand, Riyadh has allowed the holders of Iqama, a one to two-year residence permit issued to expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, to return to the kingdom in 72 hours.
Initially, PIA planned three flights whose seats were booked immediately. Looking at the high demand, the national air carrier announced four more flights from Karachi and Islamabad to Jeddah and Madina, but it was still not being able to meet the demand of all passengers, said a PIA spokesperson.
Keeping in view the demand, the national flag carrier has requested Saudi authorities to allow three more flights.
On PIA's losses, its spokesperson Abdullah Khan said they could not assess the accurate loss to the airline right now but the loss was significant due to the spread of coronavirus across the world.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2020.
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