UK plans more flights for nationals stranded in Pakistan

April 28, 2020

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Two special chartered flights each will be operated from Islamabad and Lahore and one from Karachi. — AFP/File
Two special chartered flights each will be operated from Islamabad and Lahore and one from Karachi. — AFP/File

RAWALPINDI: Following Pakistan government’s decision to extend suspension of international flights operation till May 15 and limited options available for British citizens stranded in Pakistan to return to the UK, the British government has planned to run the second round of special chartered flights from April 30 to May 5 for the purpose.

Two special chartered flights each will be operated from Islamabad and Lahore and one from Karachi. The cost of ticket from Islamabad and Lahore will be £522 and from Karachi £498.

In the first round of special chartered flights, British authorities operated special chartered flights from Islamabad and Lahore to London and Manchester on April 21 and April 27 for British nationals seeking their return to Britain.

Meanwhile, the British government has issued a guideline asking its nationals on a short-term visit to Pakistan and willing to return to the UK to get themselves registered with booking portals as soon as possible. It further announced that these portals would be closed on May 1 and there was no guarantee there would be more flights in future.

“If one has previously been registered for flights from Islamabad or Lahore, he/she should not register again. Those on existing wait lists will be given priority for the second round of special chartered flights,” the UK government announcement said.

The passengers have been asked not to travel to the airport without having a confirmed ticket, as tickets will not be on sale at airports.

“If a flight is cancelled with no replacement offered, refunds will be processed within 14 working days by the corporate travel management (CTM). If you cancel your flight less than 24 hours before a flight’s scheduled departure, you will not be eligible for a refund,” the guideline said.

The British government further advised its nationals that if departure options were available “but you cannot afford the travel costs, you may be eligible to apply for an emergency loan from the government. This is a last resort option and you would need to repay the loan when you are back in the UK”, the guideline said.

Travel to the airport

Due to government restrictions (lockdown), the guideline said, the public transport was limited, and authorities had discouraged all non-essential use of public transport.

“If you are travelling to Islamabad or Lahore Airport you should, if possible, carry printed copies of your flight confirmation and have your passports easily to hand. If you cannot get a printed flight confirmation, carry an electronic copy.

“The Pakistani authorities have assured that, if one will be having a confirmed flight ticket and valid travel documents, he will be allowed to travel to the airport,” the guideline said.

“If one has been placed into a quarantine centre or is in an area quarantined by authorities, one may have to wait until the quarantine is lifted.

“Follow the advice of relevant local authorities. If you are not allowed to travel across a checkpoint or if you are moved to a quarantine facility, call on 051 201 2000.

“The authorities have strongly advised not to travel to the airport if anyone is having any Covid-19 symptoms, including a high temperature because when he/she enters the airport, he/she will be thermal scanned by Pakistani authorities and if anyone is found having a high temperature or other Covid-19 symptoms, he/she will not be permitted to fly,” the guideline said.

“The Pakistan government is likely to take such person to a quarantine facility, where he will be tested after 48 hours. If one is tested positive, he will likely be moved to a hospital’s isolation facility. If one is tested negative, he will be released with instructions to self-isolate for a period of time determined by relevant authorities. He should call on 051 201 2000 if he/she is moved to a quarantine facility.

“If you travel, you must wear a face mask at the airport. You will need to bring your own mask with you. Airlines and airport authorities will not provide you with mask.

“If you travel on the special chartered flight, you should arrive at the airport at least 4 hours before the flight’s departure time,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan government has granted permission to Air Arabia to operate one special chartered flight to bring back overseas Pakistanis stranded in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The flight will be operated from Sharjah to Karachi on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2020