KARACHI: People intending to come to Pakistan or leave the country have been facing hardship and mental agony because of cancellation of their flights by several foreign airlines due to capacity restrictions, it emerged on Wednesday.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has taken notice of the large-scale flight cancellation and blamed foreign carriers for “overbooking”, saying the agency had not cancelled a single flight.
The airlines scheduled extra flights and took bookings to Pakistan presuming ease of travel restrictions by authorities. However, they had to cancel them when the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) maintained its travel curbs i.e. to allow 20 per cent of the normal air traffic from all over the world with a few exceptions.
The NCOC has increased the capacity for only direct international inbound flights from Europe, Canada, the United Kingdom, China, Malaysia and some other countries to 40pc of the normal volume of passengers from July 1.
Airlines scheduled extra flights presuming ease of travel restrictions but NCOC maintained curbs
Passengers irked by the flight cancellations took to social media to vent their anger. The airlines did not give them the reason behind flight cancellations and, according to some passengers, an impression was given as if the CAA was responsible.
“My family has had flights cancelled twice in a span of a week @qatarairways and for now they aren’t able to adjust before July 26th,” tweeted a social media user, Aniq Zafar.
In view of the outrage on social media, the CAA issued a statement to clarify its position. A CAA spokesman said on May 5 the CAA in compliance with NCOC directives had allowed foreign airlines coming to Pakistan to operate with 20pc of the total capacity and this permission had now been extended till July 15.
“CAA has taken notice of the excessive booking by foreign airlines for Pakistan,” he said. “The responsibility of booking and suspension of flights lies on the airline concerned as CAA has nothing to do with cancellation or overbooking.”
Meanwhile, an official of Qatar Airways told Dawn some of its flights had been cancelled to comply with the NCOC’s restrictions.
In view of the situation, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has announced it will operate relief flights for Doha.
A PIA spokesperson said due to limited number of flights operated by Gulf-based carriers, a large number of Pakistanis were unable to travel to Pakistan from Doha and vice versa. “PIA has planned to operate four relief flights.”
He said two flights were planned from Islamabad to Doha — one each on July 5 and 12, while as many return flights from Doha to Islamabad were planned on July 6 and 13.
He advised intending passengers to purchase tickets at the earliest to avoid inconvenience as tickets were being sold on a first come, first serve basis.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2021