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September 23, 2020

Saudi Arabia-bound passengers protest against PIA, agents

Top Story

September 23, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The vehicular traffic came to halt on both sides of highly busy Blue Area as the people aspiring to get air tickets for Saudi Arabia staged a protest sit-in against travel agents and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

The protesters also blocked Jinnah Avenue due to which the motorists got stuck in traffic jams for more than an hour. The situation got worse when protesters also stopped the Metro buses that were plying on their designated routes.

Naeem Ashraf, a protester, said a large number of Pakistanis from Saudi Arabia had arrived in the country amid coronavirus pandemic and now their visas would expire on September 30. He alleged that the PIA on its website informed that it would receive an additional 100 dollars each from the passengers who wanted to get air tickets for Saudi Arabia but instead, it was demanding 200 dollars from every passenger.

“The agent mafia outside the PIA office is also demanding Rs130,000 from them for a one-way ticket, which actual cost is Rs70,000,” he said. He said: “We don’t have any job opportunities in Pakistan due to which we want to go back to Saudi Arabia to earn a livelihood. Our visas will get expired if we are not given air tickets on time.”

The police immediately rushed to the scene and started clearing the way for vehicular traffic. The protesters also chanted slogans against the mafia that always cashes in on the miseries of the common people. According to the details, Pakistan allowed outbound international flights to resume in May after largely closing its airspace to commercial flights to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The PIA spokesman said that the airline was limited to 23 weekly flights due to COVID-19 but it had sought permission from Saudi Arabia to add another 28 flights due to the huge rush of passengers.

APP adds: Meanwhile, the Saudi authorities have allowed Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate 13 additional flights between the two countries with mandatory provision for adequate social distancing that restricts the passenger capacity to no more than 66% against the actual numbers of seats, said the spokesman of the national flag carrier. Abdullah Khan in a statement here Tuesday said PIA had been operating its regular flights for Saudi Arabia, since September 15, however, in fact steady surge was registered in the number of intending passengers, as aqama (residential permits) of many of the Pakistanis serving in the Saudi Kingdom are to expire on September 30."The flag carrier had sought permission for 28 additional flights," he said.

Mentioning that each of the passengers flying to Saudi Arabia, via PIA, are already meeting the requirement of getting themselves tested for COVID-19 and only those with negative results are allowed to embark for journey, he said PIA is absolutely committed to follow rules and regulations.

Despite the fact that these 13 additional flights are almost half of the demand registered on part of intending passengers, he said PIA is trying its level best to address the situation and that seats can still be booked through its booking offices and registered agents.

According to him, PIA administration and the aviation minister have also approached the foreign ministry to help securing permission for additional flights between the two countries. The passengers with "aqamas" expiring on September 25 were advised to get their tickets in next two days and those with September 30 after September 25 so as to help streamline the process and avoiding unnecessary inconvenience. Abdullah Khan also advised the passengers not to pay a single penny more than the announced fare which comes to Rs84,000, inclusive of all taxes, adding that in case of being asked for any additional amount must immediately report at [email protected]