PIA brings back 1,800 Pakistanis amid complaints of high fare

Published April 16, 2020
In addition to the relief flights, the PIA is also operating chartered flights to and from Pakistan. — AFP/File
In addition to the relief flights, the PIA is also operating chartered flights to and from Pakistan. — AFP/File

KARACHI/ ISLAMABAD: Amid complaints of passengers that the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been charging excessive fares, the national flag carrier said on Wednesday it had brought back home through 11 relief flights 1,800 Pakistanis stranded abroad after airlines suspended their operations because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, a PIA spokesman said that 377 passengers were brought back to Pakistan from Toronto; more than 140 from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; 136 from Iraq; 125 from Azerbaijan, more than 430 from Japan, Thailand and Malaysia and nearly 200 stranded Pakistanis from Istanbul were brought back to Pakistan.

In addition to the relief flights, the PIA was also operating chartered flights to and from Pakistan, he said, adding that the national carrier had so far carried more than 11,200 passengers to and from Pakistan to various international destinations.

The spokesperson said PIA chief executive Air Marshal Arshad Malik was supervising the flight operations and he thanked Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan and PIA team members for their extraordinary initiatives and efforts to keep up the flight operation in such difficult time. He said PIA was operating relief flights to some destinations where it did not even have a regular flight operation for which special permissions had been sought in the shortest possible time for the convenience of the stranded Pakistanis. The airline was operating relief flights as well as chartered flights, he said.

The PIA spokesman said that the airline’s relief flight operation was continuing and some additional flights would be operated from April 15 to April 19.

He said these additional flights included one from Islamabad to Toronto, another from Islamabad to Manchester on April 17 and 18 April. The PIA would also operate two flights PK8894 and PK8852 from Islamabad to Seoul (South Korea) on April 17.

In addition, two flights had also been planned from Karachi — one for Jakarta on April 18 and the other for Toronto on April 19.

The spokesman said the PIA was taking all precautionary measures for prevention against Covid-19 and was thoroughly disinfecting its aircraft and providing necessary gear for its cabin, cockpit and ground staff. Likewise, the passengers upon return were taken to a hotel for quarantine and testing purposes, he said.

The PIA spokesman said that passengers could contact the Pakistan Embassy in the countries they were str­­a­­nded in and could also contact PIA call centre, PIA booking offices and the airline’s website for ticket purchase.

Meanwhile, the complaint of charging excessive fare came when a video of some passengers, who reached Pakistan from Thailand on a PIA flight, went viral on social media in which they alleged that the PIA had charged each of them Rs100,000 for a one-way air ticket despite the fact that usually the return ticket cost Rs55,000. However, a PIA source told Dawn that the fare was reasonable keeping in view the fact that the national carrier had been operating ‘ferry flights’ — a non-revenue flight that arrives at a destination empty only to pick certain passengers.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2020

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