RAWALPINDI: On the request of Pakistan, the authorities in Saudi Arabia have allowed Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to bring back passengers and Umrah pilgrims stranded in Saudi Arabia till March 17.
The PIA can send its aircraft to Jeddah and Madina only for the purpose of bringing back those stranded in Saudi Arabia.
A circular issued by the Saudi authorities said flight operation of Saudi Airlines from Jeddah and Medina to Pakistan would continue till March 19.
The Saudi authorities had suspended all flight operations from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia for two weeks starting from 15 due to the coronavirus threat.On Saturday, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) requested the Saudi Arabian authorities to allow PIA and the Saudi Airlines to operate their flights till March 25 so that the passengers could be transported to their destinations.
On request of Pakistan, Saudi authorities extend deadline to suspend flights to bring back stranded passengers and Umrah pilgrims
PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said the national flag carrier had operated 65 flights from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia from March 13 to March 15 and brought back 17,184 passengers.
He said PIA had been granted special permission by the Saudi authorities to operate its flights to Jeddah and Madina till March 17.
“We hope our flight operation will be completed till March 17 whereas the Saudi Airlines’ flight departing from the kingdom will land in Pakistan in the early hours of March 19.”
The spokesman said PIA had the seating capacity of 5,200 passengers for three days and had the booking of 3,600 passengers so far.
All Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia have been requested to contact their nearest PIA booking office so that they could be brought back before the deadline.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan along with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari visited Islamabad International Airport (IIA) on Saturday night to review measures taken to manage the extra load of flights due to operations limited to three cities - Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.
The minister was briefed about the precautionary measures taken by CAA after an increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan.
He inspected the measures taken and talked to the health staff deputed there regarding the process of health screening of inbound passengers from international and domestic flights.
Mr Khan also checked whether passengers from international flights had filled health declaration forms and inspected the education desk and the isolation rooms set up at the airport.
Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2020