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Is PIA really going to resume International Flight Operation from April 4?

The United States of America and several European countries are new epicenters of Coronavirus outbreak. Amid such global crisis, should the national carrier resume international flight operation?

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The Pakistan International Airlines has reportedly decided to partially restore international flights from April 4 from the New Islamabad International Airport. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has issued the Airline Operational Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the April 4-11 period.

Spokesman for the Aviation Division Abdul Sattar Khokhar, who is also a senior joint secretary, said that the restoration of regular flights was under consideration, but “a final decision has not been taken yet”. However, he confirmed that CAA has issued SOPs.

The government had suspended operations of all international passenger flights, and chartered and private inbou­nd flights to Pakistan from March 21 to April 4.

Read more: PIA suspends international flight operation amid coronavirus outbreak

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Moeed Yusuf has said the international flight operation will start resuming slowly from April 4 or 5. Talking to the media on Monday, he said that no Pakistani passenger is stranded at any airport across the world. “The domestic flights will remain closed till further orders,” he said.

NDMA Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal said that Pakistan’s flights will depart for China in 3-4 days and they will return with 15 ventilators and medical equipment. “The flight coming from Beijing will bring 100 thermal gates. Protective gears have been given to medical staff in Islamabad,” he said.

GVS learnt that the CAA has maintained that the passengers coming from abroad will be kept in quarantine after landing and they will need to wear gloves and masks throughout the travel.

Read more: PIA offloads 37 passengers on Toronto bound flight under new restrictions

The Foreign Office and National Security Committee (NSC) on Tuesday gave the nod to the PIA partially restoring international flight operations. The NSC will give its formal approval to the move on Wednesday.

According to a report, two charter flights carrying 400 passengers will set off for Toronto, Canada from the Islamabad International Airport. The flights will include the officers and staff of the Canadian High Commission.

The authorities are also considering running three commercial flights to the UK from April 4 after the completion of the necessary protective measures. Flight services will not be available during the travel. In addition, the passengers will be tested for body temperatures prior to boarding.

According to the SOP, the passengers are to comply with the instructions during travel to Pakistan which are in addition to other instructions mandated for safe air travel or as given by the cabin crew from time to time during the flight.

Read more: PIA suspends flights to Italy amidst fear of coronavirus

All the passengers are required to wear surgical masks throughout the duration of the flight. Passengers are to occupy only the seats allocated to them and not to change the seats in any case. And passengers are also to confine to their seats and are not allowed to congregate/move about in the aircraft during the course of air travel.

Experts believe that the PIA will have to ensure that no infected person leaves or comes inside Pakistan since a single case may lead to the closure of the service. Moreover, there are also concerns as to which other countries will be willing to operate or let the PIA operate as the USA and UK are new epicenter of novel Coronavirus spread.

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