By Special Correspondent
Islamabad: As law and order improve in Pakistan to great extent, International airlines are starting flight operations to and from Pakistan. Virgin Atlantic has also announced it will start direct flights to Pakistan from December this year, the British airline announced on Thursday.
According to announcement made by the airline, direct flights will be flown from Heathrow Airport to both Islamabad and Lahore. Additionally, the airline will operate direct flights to Islamabad from Manchester Airport. Bookings, it said, will start from September, the airline added.
Airline plans to operate four flights per week on from London Heathrow to Lahore and three flights per weeks to Islamabad. Islamabad will also be served four times weekly from Manchester.
The Asian expansion follows a near total collapse in demand for Virgin’s transatlantic business.
Just four of its 16 destinations in North America and the Caribbean are still active: New York JFK, Los Angeles, Miami and Barbados. The UK-US flight corridor has been particularly badly affected as both countries have imposed travel restrictions on each other’s residents.
A further six points in India, South Africa, Nigeria and Israel have been suspended by the airline, leaving Shanghai and Hong Kong as its only other stations.
According to Forbes, Virgin Atlantic was given a lifeline earlier this week when its creditors backed a £1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) rescue package to see the company through the downturn – by far the worst the airline industry has ever faced.
Franchise partner Virgin Australia entered voluntary administration in April and was subsequently acquired by private equity firm Bain Capital.
The Pakistani market enjoys resilient year-round demand from the UK thanks to the South Asian country’s large diaspora. Travel options were also curtailed this summer when Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was banned from European skies due to concerns about pilot training.
It is worth noting that the British Airways (BA) has shown interestest in expanding its flight operation to more cities to across Pakistan. Recently, It has sought permission from Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) to operate flights to Lahore that was granted, according to sources. Earlier this week, a team of experts from the airline had visited Allama Iqbal International Airport to review arrangements made by the airport management.
The airline started flights to Islamabad this month, which had been suspended due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
BA had resumed flights to Pakistan in 2019, after an 11-year hiatus. The airline had suspended services to Pakistan in Sept 2008 in the wake of the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad.