RAWALPINDI: After Islamabad granted permission to the British Airways, the company announced on Thursday that it would resume its UK-Pakistan flight operation next month.
The airline said it would start direct flights three times a week to and from London’s Heathrow Airport and Islamabad airport. The first flight will land in Islamabad on Aug 14. Extra precautionary measures will be taken for the safety of its crew and passengers.
The announcement, it said, was another important step in reconnecting trade ties and people-to-people contact between the UK and Pakistan.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, passengers will be required to wear masks and they will have access to hand sanitisers during the flight. Crew members will wear masks during the flight. There are also extra measures in place at airports to ensure travellers stay safe.
British High Commissioner Dr Christian Turner CMG has termed the resumption of the British Airways’ flight operation to Pakistan an important moment for links between the UK and Pakistan.
“The resumption of British Airways direct flights is a big boost for the hundreds of thousands of travellers who travel regularly between our two great nations, many who have had their travel plans disrupted by the pandemic. I’d like to thank the Government of Pakistan, British Airways and my team in Pakistan who have worked hard to deliver this welcome news.”
Moran Birger, head of sales, Asia Pacific and the Middle East at British Airways, said: “We are pleased to once again provide a service between Pakistan and the UK. We know many of our customers in both countries have been waiting to be reunited with friends and family. We look forward to welcoming them back onboard.”
British Airways direct flights restarted in June 2019 after a break of 10 years. The carrier first flew to Islamabad in 1976.
From London’s Heathrow Airport the flights will be operated on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, departing at 20:30 and arriving in Islamabad at 04:20. From Islamabad flights will be operated on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, departing at 06:15 and arriving in London at 15:00.
The British Airways sought permission from the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) to resume flights from Islamabad in August as the flights had been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to sources, two sessions had taken place between officials of British Airways and the PCAA in Dubai and London over the issue of resumption of flights for Islamabad. The airline sought a considerable relief in the PCAA’s landing and passenger charges.
“Yes, the British Airways had requested for resuming flights for Islamabad, which was granted on Thursday with some relief on landing and passenger charges,” said a senior official of PCAA.
In a related development, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) announced it was partially resuming flight operation to the UK with a hired plane.
PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said that the PIA had decided to partially resume its flight operation to the UK from Aug 14.
He said PIA passengers would be able to travel to London, Manchester and Birmingham from Pakistan via an alternate source.
“PIA has hired a plane and crew from a European company to operate flights with PIA call sign and our slots,” he said, adding that there was a demand from the market for PIA to resume its flights.
He said after suspension of flight operations to the UK, other airlines had increased their fares and the PIA was expecting that after its flight operation for the UK started, fares of other airlines would become normal.
He said the flight schedule for the UK would be announced after Eidul Azha as arrangements had been finalised.
Meanwhile, the PCAA has launched an awareness campaign on ‘bird hazard’ control at all major airports of the country.
Aviation Division spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar said in a press release on Thursday that the campaign aimed at keeping surrounding areas of airports clean from garbage, refuse and waste.
He said various initiatives were being taken to reinforce the message pertaining to the serious issue of bird strike on the aircraft and its consequences.
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2020