Flight backlog throws travel plans of Pakistani expats into chaos

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Flight backlog throws travel plans of Pakistani expats into chaos

Dubai - Airline companies said they would be using larger planes on these routes to accommodate more passengers.


Asma Ali Zain

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Published: Sun 3 Mar 2019, 8:30 PM

Online bookings for seats on major airlines on the Dubai-Lahore sector will remain suspended until March 10 even as flights to Islamabad, Peshawar and Karachi resumed.
Travel agents, too, were not taking new bookings for Lahore and Sialkot sectors, citing clearance of a backlog and the ongoing partial closure of airspace by Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority.
Airline companies also said they would be using larger planes on these routes to accommodate more passengers.
Emirates' online bookings for Lahore weren't available until March 10 and until March 6 for Sialkot.
Bookings for Lahore on the website of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the country's national carrier, weren't available until March 11.
On Friday, Pakistan partially opened its airspace, allowing international flights to operate to and from Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar.
Pakistan closed its airspace on February 27 amid escalating tensions with India, after the Indian Air Force carried out strikes on what it claims to be terror bases in Pakistan.
Several commercial flights around the world, including the UAE, remained affected and thousands of passengers were still stranded.
An Etihad spokesperson told Khaleej Times: "Due to continued Pakistan airspace and airport closures affecting Lahore, all Etihad services to and from Lahore have been cancelled.
"All other Etihad flights to Pakistan will now return to normal operations. These services will be upgraded to larger aircraft where possible to accommodate previously disrupted guests, and provide Lahore guests an alternative route in accordance with Etihad's reservation change policy.
"The safety and security of our guests will always be our number one priority at Etihad Airways, and we continue to monitor the situation," said the spokesperson.
"For further information, please call the Etihad Airways Contact Centre on +971 (0) 2599 0000. Guests can also check the status of their flight on our website, or through our mobile app."
Emirates airlines, on the other hand, said on its website: "Emirates flights to and from Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar are no longer affected by the closure, and will resume with immediate effect. Flights to and from Lahore and Sialkot have been cancelled until March 4."
A number of people opted to take flights to Karachi and connect on domestic flights onwards to Lahore and Sialkot.
"I am trying to book for Karachi but that, too, seems difficult as travel agents tell me there is a backlog that is being cleared," said Khalid Butt. Umeer Khaalid, on the other hand, said he was told by Emirates that the flight from Lahore to Dubai would not be operating on March 4.
Faryal Asif, who was set to travel on March 1 from Lahore to Dubai and then onwards to Tokyo from Dubai on March 6, remained in the dark.
A number of other Pakistanis put off their travel plans. "There is no point travelling now because of the current situation," said Ambreen Khurram.
"Luckily it is not the holiday season and we had not made any prior travel plans," she added.

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