PIA to operate special flights to Saudi Arabia for iqama holders, says official
Statesman Report
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has started seven special flights to take Saudi iqama holders of Pakistani origin back to the Kingdom after officials of the Arab state gave them a 72-hour ultimatum to return amid mounting fear of coronavirus, said a PIA official on Saturday.
“We have started seven special flights along with our regular flights to Saudi Arabia. We seek permission from the Saudi authorities for four more special flights that we have not received so far,” the national air carrier’s spokesperson, Abdullah Hafeez, told Arab News on telephone from Karachi.
The Saudi authorities on Thursday announced a range of measures to contain the threat of coronavirus as cases of viral infection increased in the Kingdom. These include temporary suspension of travel of citizens and expatriates to a number of countries, including the European Union, Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and some African nations. It also gave a 72-hour period to citizens and those with valid residency permits to return to the Kingdom before the travel suspension decision came into effect.
Hafeez said that PIA would not be able to take all the passengers to Saudi Arabia within the stipulated time since the number of passengers was too high. Many of these iqama holders had taken leave from work and were visiting Pakistan.
“It is an emergency situation so normal operations will not be able to cater to this demand. We can manage aircraft availability, but we are not getting slot permission due to heavy influx of flights from all over the world. The ultimatum is for the whole world which has created a flight congestion in the Kingdom,” he said.