RAWALPINDI: Following permission granted by the United States Department of Transport to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate direct flight to the US, PIA’s flight carrying 207 passengers departed for New Jersey from Islamabad on Sunday.

Spokesman for PIA Abdullah Hafeez said in a statement that this was the first time a Pakistani aircraft operated a direct flight to New Jersey. “PIA flight PK-8711 carrying more than 200 passengers departed for New Jersey. PIA sought permission to operate direct flights to USA. If permission to operate direct flights is granted on a permanent basis, PIA intends to resume direct flights to America,” he said.

After the September 11 attacks, US authorities had refused permission for direct flights because of security reasons, until now.

In April this year the US department of transportation, allowed PIA to operate 12 round-trip, one-way passenger or cargo flights. The permission granted on Apr 29, 2020 will expire on Apr 29, 2021.

The PIA must also comply with all US government requirements concerning security. All passengers and crew members were subjected to scanning before boarding the flight to New Jersey.

The department had directed PIA to operate Boeing’s model B777-240LR (serial number 33781, registration number AP-BGY) and model B777-240LR (serial number 33782, registration number AP-BGZ) for USA flights.

Another PIA flight PK-8211, departed for Dubai from Islamabad to bring back stranded Pakistanis on Sunday while PIA flight PK-702, carrying 258 passengers arrived at Islamabad International Airport (IIA) from Muscat on Sunday.

All passengers arriving from Muscat were scanned and were later shifted to different hotels for quarantine.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2020