Emirates, flydubai to launch UAE-Pakistan flights from next week
Passengers may have to pay up to Dh2,000 per seat
Stranded Pakistanis in the UAE are expected to start returning home from next week as the UAE and Pakistani airlines will operate special flights once they receive the go-ahead from the governments, Khaleej Times has learnt.
Emirates, flydubai and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) are ready to launch special flight operations for stranded Pakistani nationals by April 21 when Pakistan is expected to lift the aviation ban on some international flights.
"The UAE and Pakistani authorities are finalising details for special flights. We are ready to send PIA aircraft to bring back stranded Pakistanis once we get green signal from the Pakistan government," according to a source in PIA.
When contacted, Emirates spokesperson said Emirates has temporarily suspended its services to Pakistan. "We aim to provide our customers with as much notice as possible should there be any changes. We are closely monitoring the situation, and we hope to resume services as soon as conditions allow. This includes receiving government approvals, the easing of travel restrictions, and commercial demand. We will announce any service resumption when we are in a position to do so," the spokesperson said.
A flydubai spokesperson also confirmed that the airline is committed to support the repatriation efforts of the two governments. "We are fully supporting governments and authorities across the flydubai network with their repatriation efforts helping them to make arrangements for their citizens to return home," a flydubai spokesperson said.
Currently, more than 25,000 people have registered with Pakistan Consulate in Dubai for repatriation while over 10,000 have been rendered jobless due to coronavirus outbreak.
Ghulam Dastgir, Ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE, said that repatriation of stranded Pakistani nationals will only be possible when all the necessary arrangements have been put in place to test and quarantine passengers on arrival. "Special passenger flights for repatriation of Pakistani nationals from the UAE will start from next week," according to a tweet by Consulate General of Pakistan, Dubai, on Tuesday.
Landings at Islamabad only
Since the provincial governments closed their airports in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, all flights bringing Pakistanis from abroad will be landing at the Islamabad International Airport, the aviation sources said.
"Special flights for stranded Pakistani nationals will only be allowed to the Islamabad International Airport from Dubai and maximum 300 passengers per day will be able to travel back home due to limited facilities available to quarantine international passengers in the capital," Shahid Mughal, regional manager for UAE at PIA, told Khaleej Times.
Elaborating, he said all passengers will be tested and quarantined for seven days by the government and then they will have to observe a seven-day self-quarantine period," said Mughal.
To a question, he said the aircraft used for special flights will fly empty on one side due to the ban on regular scheduled services in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. "We will maintain safe distance in special flights by keeping one seat empty between the two passengers," Mughal said.
Aviation sources said the ticket cost for special flights will be on the higher side as the aircraft will be flying empty on one side and the airlines will not fly with full passenger capacity.
"Special flights tickets may be on higher side and stranded Pakistani nationals who are keen to avail the opportunity may have to pay up to Dh2,000 per seat," the sources said.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning, Dr Moeed Yousuf, said around 2,000 stranded Pakistanis in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Algeria and Thailand will be brought back to the country soon.
"The government has devised a strategy to bring back stranded Pakistanis. Under the plan, priority will be given to labourers who have lost their jobs in other countries. The Zaireen and Umrah pilgrims will get second preference and then chance will be given to released prisoners and to those Pakistanis whose visas have expired," he added.