ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has denied that it is reducing flights to Chitral amid criticism from the Pakistan Association of Tour Operators (PATO) about its plans to do so.
The Alpine Club of Pakistan (APC) has also expressed support for the tour operators association, saying the road to Chitral was typically blocked during rain and snowfall.
ACP Secretary Karrar Haidri said reducing flights would reduce the flow of tourists to Chitral. He hoped the government would take necessary action to increase regular flights to the area.
Praising the government’s interest in promoting tourism, PATO President Maqsoodul Mulk said tour operators had to go a step ahead to help Prime Minister Imran Khan achieve his goals.
Appealing to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, he said Chitral was its prime tourist destination with one of the best soft images of culture, religious diversity and peace.
“Cutting flights to the area does not speak well; regular flights at least four times a week will help facilitate more people to visit this region and help the government achieve its goals,” Mr Mulk said.
In a statement, PATO said the government had announced visas on arrival for tourists from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, Britain, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and China.
However, when contacted, PIA denied that flights to Chitral had been reduced.
“There are flights to Chitral twice a week. Flights are cancelled if there is bad weather or when there is no load. In case of lesser load, the empty aircraft is utilised on other routes,” said spokesperson Mashhood Tajwar.
He clarified that there could not be fewer than two flights a week to Chitral.
“Depending on passenger load, the number of flights is increased during the summer when both local and foreign tourists visited the northern areas,” he explained.
He added that PIA had no plans to reduce flights to Chitral.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2019