Representational image. PHOTO: REUTERS

PTI govt extends flight suspension with little exception

PIA to resume special flights for UK from today to facilitate expats

APP April 19, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The government on Saturday extended the suspension of international and domestic flight operations till April 30 in line with national strategy to stem the spread of novel coronavirus, the Aviation Division said in a statement.

However, during that period, national flag carrier, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), will resume its relief flights to UK to facilitate the expats who wish to travel to and from Pakistan amid Covid-19 pandemic.

“As per the decision of the Government of Pakistan, the suspension of international and domestic flight operations as effected earlier has been extended up to Thursday, April 30, this year at 2359 hours PST,” the statement said.

A spokesperson for the Aviation Division said also that remaining provisions “as applicable to the suspension of international and domestic flights, reflected in the previous orders”, would remain unchanged.

In a separate statement, the PIA said it would resume its special relief flights to UK from Sunday. The flight resumption comes after discussions between PIA management and UK high commissioner to Pakistan.

PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez said that permission had been sought by the PIA management from the government to operate these flights after fulfilling all health and safety requirements set by respective agencies of both the countries.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had asked the PIA management to plan and execute these operations on a priority basis so as to address concerns of both stranded Pakistanis in the UK and stranded British citizens in Pakistan.

Hafeez conformed that the demand was high and being the national carrier, the PIA had to step forward in the time of need. “As per fresh schedule, flights are to operate daily from Islamabad and Lahore for three network points in UK – London, Manchester and Birmingham,” he said.

With limited availability, seats will be sold or allocated on first-come-first-serve basis hence it is advised that reservation may not be delayed, he said. “Intending travelers are urged to immediately contact PIA offices, contact centers and website to secure their bookings, fresh or old ones to be readjusted.”

The spokesperson said PIA contact center would approach people who had already submitted re-confirmation requests. “Passengers for fresh bookings are, however, advised to visit the PIA offices or its website.”

A large number of people are affected because of the global pandemic forced border and airspace closures around the world. Thousands of stranded passengers are eagerly awaiting the resumption of flight operations.

The PIA on sheer humanitarian basis and despite not meeting operational costs, has also decided to offer special discounted fare of Rs110,000 or £525 one-way fare to enable large number of stranded citizens to avail the facility.

Spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez requested the intending travelers to ensure immediate booking, as flights had already been opened in the system, reiterating that customers would be treated on the first-come-first-serve basis to ensure transparency.

The PIA had previously launched a massive operation on April 4 to facilitate hundreds of UK citizens stranded in Pakistan, however, due to regulated in-bound flow of travelers, consequent to Covid-19 pandemic could not fly back the desired number of passengers to Pakistan.