A British Airways aircraft taxies on a runway upon landing at the Islamabad International Airport on Monday. AFP
First flight of British Airways to Pakistan landed at Islamabad International Airport on Monday, more than a decade after suspending the route following a deadly bomb blast.
Flight no BA-261 carrying 240 passengers via Boeing 787 Dreamliner, touched down at 9:25am.
Flights three times a week between London and Islamabad began on Monday, just ahead of the Eid Al Fitr holiday marking the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Razak Dawood, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Sayed Zulfi Bukhari and British High Commissioner Thomas Drew welcomed the passengers.
The carrier had pulled out of Pakistan after the attack at Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel in September 2008, which left at least 54 people dead and many more injured, including six British citizens.
Pakistani officials welcome passengers of the British Airways flight with a rose upon their arrival on Monday. AFP
The three-flights-per-week service will be operated with Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft and will serve the Pakistani capital’s main international airport.
British Airways said it will offer "bespoke services” including a halal meal option in every class of cabin and ensuring sauces used in meals do not include alcohol or pork.
It revealed there has been "considerable interest” from its Urdu-speaking Pakistani and British Pakistani cabin crew to work on the flights. Andrew Brem, chief commercial officer at British Airways, said: "The anticipation from customers and colleagues has been palpable and we hope customers in both the UK and Pakistan will enjoy the classically British service we offer, with thoughtful bespoke touches.”
Pakistani officials welcome passengers of the British Airways flight with a rose upon their arrival at the Islamabad airport. AFP
Aftab Khan, who speaks English and Urdu, was one of the crew operating the inaugural flight, which departed London at 9:15pm. He said: "I can’t wait for what will be such a wonderful occasion. To be chosen to operate this flight, with my close family links to Pakistan, is a real honour. I know that my colleagues operating the flight are just as excited.”
When the resumption of flights was announced in December last year, British High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew said British Airways was joining an "increasing number of British companies doing business in Pakistan.”
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Debbie Abrahams, a Labour Party member who chairs a parliamentary group focused on the disputed region of Kashmir, was unable to clear customs after her valid Indian visa was rejected, the aide, Harpreet Upal, told.
Abrahams and Upal arrived at the airport on an Emirates flight from Dubai at 9 a.m. Upal said the immigration officials did not cite any reason for denying Abrahams entry and revoking her visa, a copy of which, valid until October 2020. A spokesman for India's foreign ministry did not immediately comment.
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