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Coronavirus: Pakistan suspends international flights for 2 weeks

Muzaffar Rizvi
Filed on March 21, 2020 | Last updated on March 21, 2020 at 02.13 pm
Coronavirus, Pakistan, suspends, international flights, operations, 2 weeks
The PIA and airblue passengers who booked seats to travel during March 21 to April 4, 2020, can rebook their flights and get the refunds from the airlines' offices.

(Alamy Image)

The flights are expected to restore in phase manner by April 4.

Pakistan on Saturday, March 21, announced that it is suspending all international flight operations for two weeks as part of an integrated strategy to contain spread of coronavirus pandemic in the country.

"The decision will come into effect from Saturday night (8pm) today," the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan said.

Moeed Yusuf, special assistant to prime minister on national security division and strategic policy planning in Pakistan, said that in addition to commercial flights this will also cover chartered flights. However, diplomats and cargo aircraft will be allowed to land in the country.

"No international flights will be allowed to land in Pakistan for two weeks," Yusuf said, adding that a few flights already en route to Pakistan would be able to land on Sunday morning.

The suspension of international flights will create problems for more than 200,00 passengers and tourists who have already booked flights for Pakistan by the end of March. At present, Pakistan has allowed international flights to land at Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore only.

"From 8.00pm on March 21, all international flights will be suspended till April 4, 2020," according to a tweet by the Ministry of National Health Services.

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Pakistan have jumped to 531 on Saturday after Sindh and Balochistan reported more cases. Currently, Sindh has confirmed 267 cases of Covid-19, 96 in Punjab, 23 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 104 in Balochistan, 10 in Islamabad territory, 30 in Gilgit Baltistan and one in Kashmir. So far, three people have died from coronavirus in the country.

"The flights may be restored in a phase manner before April 4 if the situation improves in coming days," sources in the Pakistan's aviation industry told Khaleej Times.

In a tweeter message on Saturday, an official of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said the airline is cancelling all its international flights in accordance with the directives of government effective from March 21 till March 28. However, the sources said PIA may be allowed to bring back overseas Pakistanis stuck in various airports of the world.

When contacted, senior officials of the PIA and private sector airline airblue said all flights will be suspended from 8pm Saturday and the passengers who booked seats can rebook their flights and get the refunds.

"We have suspended all international flights in the wake of the novel coronavirus spread across the world. Those who booked flights to travel between March 21st to April 4 can rebook their tickets without any charge or get the refunds from the airline's office in Dubai," Shahid Mughal, regional manager for the UAE, PIA, told Khaleej Times on Saturday.

"We have operated 13 flights including five with 777s aircraft to transfer overseas Pakistanis from Dubai to Pakistan in last two days," Mughal said.

An official of airblue said the airline will suspend its operations on Saturday in line with the government decision to suspend all international flights until April 4.

"Airblue passengers, who are affected because of the suspension of flight operations, can get refunds and rebook their flights without paying any fee or charge," the official said.

muzaffarrizvi@khaleejtimes.com


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