Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid: UAE-Pakistan airfare may go up by 50% ahead of Eid

Muzaffar Rizvi/Dubai
Filed on May 2, 2021 | Last updated on May 2, 2021 at 06.30 pm
AFP file photo

Passengers may pay more as Pakistan cuts flights by 80%

Air passengers travelling to Pakistan are expected to pay higher airfare as the airlines will reduce their flight operations from May 5 onwards in line with the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) directive to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Airline sources said airfare may surge up to 50 per cent ahead of Eid as limited seats will be available due to significant cut in Pakistan-bound flights during May 5 to 20.

Covid-19: Pakistan to reduce inbound flights by 80 per cent

"In view of prevailing global and regional disease trends, Pakistan has decided to reduce inbound international travel from 5 May to 20th May. International flights to Pakistan will be reduced to 20 per cent during this period," NCOC tweeted.

The UAE and Pakistani airlines operate more than 150 weekly flights to different cities of the South Asian country, according to industry officials.

Foreign airlines hit more

Aviation sources said Pakistani airlines will be least affected due to restrictions imposed by the Civial Aviation Authority (CAA) on Saturday after the NCOC directive.

Referring to a notification issued by CAA, the aviation sources said "international inbound landing flight operations to Pakistan shall be curtailed by 80 per cent and shall consequently be reduced to 20 per cent of approved summer-21 scheduled flights" will greatly impact foreign airlines' operations compared to national carriers such as PIA, airblue and Serene Air.

"Foreign airlines have a major share in Pakistani market so they will take a major hit with latest flight restrictions," according to an official.

PIA to merge flights

Abdullah Hafeez Khan, spokesman at Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), said the airline will align its international flight operations in line with the directive of civial aviation regulator.

"We will rationalise our capacity based on the restrictions proposed by the NCOC. We may have to merge few flights," Khan told Khaleej Times.

To a question about fare hike due to flights reduction, he said it would depend on flight bookings and revenue management.

"The airline has no specific plans to increase the fares," he said.

The country’s only listed airline and national flag carrier operates more than 40 weekly flights from the UAE to major cities of Pakistan.

UAE-Pakistan flights may be least affected by Covid restrictions: Sources

No serious challenge

Abbas Raza Dar, country manager for Pakistan’s second biggest airline airblue, said the airline’s is unlikely to face any capacity challenge due to proposed reduction in Pakistan-bound flights from the UAE.

“We operate approximately 35 weekly flights from the UAE to Pakistan and will rationalize our operations once we have a clear picture after a meeting with regulator this week,” Dar told Khaleej Times on Sunday.

In reply to a question, he said airfare traditionally goes up ahead of Eid and this year also has no exception.

“Most of the airlines have already increase airfare for Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore and other destinations in Pakistan. However, airfare may go on average 30 to 40 per cent up if we have to cut the flight operations as advised by the NCOC and CAA,” Dar said.

He shared his apprehension and said foreign airlines will be affecting more with the reduction in flight operations compared to national carriers as they dominate Pakistan aviation market.

Airfares will go up

Serene Air, which started its international flight operations last month from Sharjah, is set to expand its UAE operations with Dubai-Lahore flight from May 6 when other airlines will be rationalising their capacity on Pakistan bound flights.

Sohail Sheikh, country manager of Serene Air in the UAE, said the airline has started its international flight operations last month from Sharjah to Islamabad.

"We have very limited flights to Pakistan at the moment and I hope our operations will not face a 'major impact' with new developments," Sheikh told Khaleej Times.

About the possible increase in airfare due to reduction in flights for two weeks ahead of Eid, he said it is early to say anything with surety as passengers are reluctant to travel at the moment.

"Flight reduction will definitely impact the airfare which may go up 20 to 30 per cent, but a lot depends on passenger demand which is not as high as it should be ahead of Eid," Sheikh said.

Travellers to Pakistan are required to follow Covid protocols across the board, including presenting a negative RT-PCR test result with a validity of no more than 72 hours old.

Travel restrictions

As per latest advisory, passengers will need to submit to a rapid antigen test upon arrival. Those who test negative will need to undergo 10 days of self-quarantine at home. Positive cases will be transferred to a self-paid facility where they will quarantine for 10 days.

"Most Pakistani expats have postponed their travel plans due to travel restrictions and uncertainty over lockdowns in the country. We do not expect traditional high demand for Pakistan bound flights ahead of Eid," according to a travel agent.

The revised air travel plan will be effective from midnight on May 5 till midnight on May 20. A review of the decision will be carried out on May 18 to determine next steps, according to NCOC directive.


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