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March 27, 2020

PIA cancels special flights to UK, Canada

Top Story

March 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A government decision to allow the country’s national flag carrier to fly special flights to four international routes despite announcing blanket ban and then canceling the same despite sale of thousands of tickets simply shows the mismanagement and incompetence on part of authorities.

The frequent changes in decisions have created an awkward situation both at diplomatic and passengers’ level as it increased confusion and panic among everyone. Latest, the PIA on Thursday cancelled special flights to four selected destinations including London, Manchester, Birmingham and Toronto. But the sources in UK on the condition of anonymity stated that the reason given by PIA for canceling the special flights were not in good taste----blaming Europe and North America as the present predominant centres of coronavirus.

Pakistani ministers announced slapping ban on all kinds of international flights on March 21, 2020 in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic but all of sudden PIA was granted permission and it arranged special flights to only four destinations including three in UK and one in Canada. First of all the decision of ban should have been followed strictly but then why only four destinations were allowed all of sudden. Although, the PIA claimed that it was one way flight but the sources said that the tickets were also sold out at exorbitant rates outside Pakistan for return of these planes. It should be kept in mind that these passengers were mainly not the customers of PIA and most of them had come into Pakistan on flights of other airlines. According to the details, the mismanagement of PIA has multiplied difficulties of stuck up passengers as the national flag carrier arranged special flights to facilitate foreign nationals despite ban slapped by the incumbent government on all foreign travel. Now these special flights had been canceled despite selling tickets. The customers were also assured that if they would buy confirmed tickets then they would facilitate them to reach to the airport for catching their scheduled flights.

It was strange move on the part of the PIA as it managed special flights with the purpose to facilitate certain dual national who got stuck up due to ban slapped by the government.

Now the tickets were sold out and some customers who are based in UK told this scribe that they were also offered to get tickets to fly back to Pakistan. Now when customers got tickets the PIA on Thursday suddenly took decision to cancel the flights again.

The PIA announced on Thursday that it has cancelled its special flights to Toronto, London, Manchester and Birmingham scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

According to announcement made by PIA spokesman on Thursday stating that in view of recent spike in the number of diagnosed corona cases in UK and North America, government of Pakistan keeping the health and safety of citizens in consideration, has withdrawn the permissions to allow PIA to operate to these territories.

The PIA regrets the inconvenience caused to the passengers, however, would like to assure that passengers and crews safety and health is always the foremost important element for PIA.

The changing dynamics may be regretful but the pandemic is forcing authorities and governments globally to continuously review their strategies to fight this challenge and get maximum protection.

“Please, contact PIA call centre for more information and updates on our operations normalisation,” the spokesman added.

Earlier, this correspondent received complaints that PIA was charging exorbitant fares for these special flights. The PIA is charging almost double fares, said one customer while talking to The News on Thursday.

At that stage when the PIA spokesman was contacted for asking reasons for charging higher fares, he replied that fare is higher because flights were operating ferry which means that return flight to Pakistan would be empty as no passenger allowed in return. We can’t make a profit here but we have to meet our operational expense, he added

Two excessive demand, flights were sold within two hours of opening. Hence fares sold in higher fare classes (RBDs).

“Still if you would compare PIA fare with the competition still operating on that route, you would find that to be twice to three times higher than us. However now it seems the flights are cancelled anyways due to government permissions.

On other hand, the British government had informed its nationals by stating that on 21 March, the government of Pakistan announced the suspension of all international flights to Pakistan, until 2000 PST on 4 April. The government of Pakistan described the measure as a ‘temporary suspension imposed due to exceptional circumstances’. We understand that the suspension applies also to international flights out of Pakistan.

Despite this suspension, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has announced flights from Islamabad to UK operating on 27 and 28 March. “We understand that PIA flights will only be advertised through travel agents. We understand Qatar Airways is also planning on operating a daily flight from Islamabad International Airport from 25 March until 3 April. For Qatar Airways flights please see website or contact travel agents. If transiting a third country, please check that you will be able to fly on to the UK.”

“If you live in the UK and are currently travelling abroad you are strongly advised to return, where and while there are still commercial routes available. You should contact airlines and travel agents immediately. If you are a permanent resident overseas, you should stay and follow the advice of local authorities,” it concluded.