The photo has been used for illustrative purposes only.
Tariq Butt, Correspondent
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has decided to partially restore international flights from April 2 (Thursday) after grounding them on March 21 to stem the spread of the rapidly spreading coronavirus infections.
Initially, international flights will only be operated from the New Islamabad International Airport.
Two charter flights will travel to Canada and passengers will have to wear masks and gloves. Other flights will remain suspended. The passengers coming from abroad will be kept in quarantine.
The foreign ministry and National Security Committee (NSC) has given the nod to the PIA partially restoring international flight operations.
An official said two charter flights carrying 400 passengers will set off for Toronto, Canada, from the Islamabad International Airport. The flights will include the officers and staff of the Canadian High Commission.
The passengers will receive their tickets as per the list issued by Canadian embassy in Pakistan.
The PIA will resume its first commercial flight from April 3. That flight will also leave for Toronto.
The authorities are considering running three commercial flights to the UK from April 4 after the completion of the necessary protective measures.
The passengers coming from abroad will undergo comprehensive screening and will be kept in quarantine. They will be required to wear masks and gloves throughout their travel.
Flight services will not be available during the travel. In addition, the passengers will be tested for body temperatures prior to boarding.
The official further said the authorities were also contemplating mandatory coronavirus testing of all passengers travelling abroad.
For commercial flights, passengers with bookings for March 27 and March 28 will be given preference. Tickets for the flights will be available through online agents and the PIA’s booking office.
On March 21, the Civil Aviation Authority had notified the suspension for all foreign airlines till April 4 and for a week for the country’s national flag carrier.
The decision to suspend international flight operations was taken during a meeting of the national security council.
Foreign airlines operate as many as 980 flights a week to and from Pakistan.
The PIA operates another 396 international flights to 15 countries on a regular schedule.
Like other global airlines which have been left on life support in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions, Pakistan’s aviation sector is taking a massive hit too following the suspension of international flights.
The sector has lost billions of rupees due to the restrictions imposed by other countries.
"As per decision of the government of Pakistan, the suspension of International and Domestic Flight Operations as effected earlier has been extended up to Tuesday April 21, 11:59pm," The Express Tribune quoted the notification as saying on Friday.
On April 19, PIA flight PK-8220 will depart for Dubai from Islamabad, while PIA’s return flight PK-8221 will arrive at Multan airport from Dubai on the same day. The PIA flight PK-8223 will go from Islamabad to Dubai and will depart from Dubai to Faisalabad on April 19.
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Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan visited the d3 (Dubai Design District) on Sunday, along with senior officials among others.