RAWALPINDI: After remaining suspended for six days because of employees’ strike, flight operations of Pakistan International Air­lines partially resumed on Sunday when the airline’s two Boeing aircraft brought home 725 pilgrims stranded in Saudi Arabia.

Two more planes took off from the Benazir Bhutto International Airport for Jeddah on Sunday night to bring back the remaining pilgrims. Another flight (PK-211) left for Dubai in the evening.

The airline’s ATR flight with four people on board landed at the Gilgit airport and returned to Islamabad with the passengers stranded there. One domestic and four international flights were operated from Lahore, but operations from other airports of the country could not resume.

Mohammad Zia, a Pak­istani stranded in Jeddah, told Dawn on phone that visa of no passenger waiting to fly back to Pakistan had been checked by the authorities.

“We have been waiting in vain for the Pakistani embassy to send officials to meet the stranded people and tell us what would be our fate,” he said, adding that more than 1,000 Pakistanis were staying in a hotel where he had stayed.

PIA’s spokesman Daniyal Gilani said the two Boeing 777 aircraft (PK-741 and PK-7329) had departed for Jeddah at around 2am (Saturday-Sunday) and returned to Islamabad with 725 passengers on board on Sunday evening.

He claimed that all departments of the national flag carrier had worked as a great team and made these flights possible.

He said two more flights (PK-733 and PK-739) had been sent to Jeddah to bring back the remaining pilgrims.

Mr Gilani said all staff members had been requested to resume their duty and save the airline. The PIA management, he added, was doing its best to look after the passengers and felt sorry for the inconvenience caused to them by what he called illegal strike.

LAHORE: A PIA’s ATR flight brought 37 pilgrims to Lahore from Islamabad on Sunday. It took as many to Islamabad from where they left for Jeddah.

Four international flights – three for Jeddah and one for Madina – took off from the Lahore airport in the night.

PESHAWAR: One domestic and two international flights of the national flag carrier could not take off from the Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar on Sunday because of the employees’ strike.

According to aviation officials, one flight scheduled for Karachi and two for Kula Lumpur and Dubai could not depart.

The PIA’s booking office has remained closed for about a week. Private airlines have already suspended their domestic flights for other parts of the country, including Karachi and Lahore, causing further inconvenience to passengers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata.

Zulqernain Tahir from Lahore and Zulfiqar Ali from Peshawar also contributed to this story

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2016

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