A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight, PK-640, with 47 passengers, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar and Communications Minister Murad Saeed, onboard, touched down at the Saidu Sharif airport in Swat at around 11 am.
The National carrier will fly semiweekly from Islamabad.
PIA is pleased to be initiating its operations for Saidu Sharif once again after a gap of 17 years! 2 flights a week, at special introductory fares. #PIA #FlyPIA #GreatPeopleToFlyWith pic.twitter.com/spgapuZaxD
— PIA (@Official_PIA) March 25, 2021
The flight took off from the Islamabad International Airport where a cake was cut to mark the resumption of the flight operation to the Saidu Sharif airport.
Speaking to the media after arriving at the Saidu Sharif airport, the aviation minister said flights to Swat resumed after a gap of 17 years.
He said the people fought terrorism alongside security forces. PIA’s Swat flight operation was in need of the hour, he pointed out. “The flights will not only add to the national airline’s revenue but also promote tourism,” he said.
CM KPK said that the runway will be extended so that the A380 airbus can land as well and it will be opened for international flights as well. He said that when the airport was closed, Swat was battling terrorism.
The minister thanked Mr. Murad Saeed who is MNA from Swat, Arshad Malik the CEO of PIA, and PIA as a whole for making this project possible.
Similarly, PTI senator Faisal Javed took to Twitter to thank these people for resuming the flight.
Welldone @MuradSaeedPTI, @IMMahmoodKhan, Ghulam Sarwar Khan. Really appreciate efforts of Arshad Malik @Official_PIA for resuming flights to country’s scenic Malakand after 17 years. I remember my first flight was to Saidu Sharif some 25yrs ago! #TourPakistan pic.twitter.com/I5gbaWFYZP
— Faisal Javed Khan (@FaisalJavedKhan) March 26, 2021
At this point, Murad Saeed also talked to the media discussing past and potential projects by the ruling party in the region.
Established in 1978, the Saidu Sharif Airport in Swat used to handle two PIA flights a day from Islamabad and Peshawar.
According to CAA only 27 of the 44 airports around the country are fully operational, while six have been scaled down and 11 completely shut. Among the non-functional ones are Sargodha and Bannu.
Sargodha airport does not have any CAA staff, but it has an operational PAF base Mushaf.
The facility in Bannu was scaled down in 2002 due to it being inviable for commercial airliners. Till now, there is no consideration to operationalize Bannu Airport.
The ones that have been scaled down include the ones in Khuzdar, Muzaffarabad, Balakot, Bannu, and Parachinar.
The airports that have been closed are in Jiwani PN, Ormara, Sibi, Mangla, Kohat, Bhagtanwala, Mianwali, Sehwan Sharif, Mirpurkhas, Talhar and Jacobabad.
Out of the 27 operational airports around the country, 12 airports running international flights and 15 are handling domestic flights.
The 12 international airports operating across Pakistan are Jinnah International Airport Karachi, Allama Iqbal International Airport Lahore, Islamabad International Airport Islamabad, Bacha Khan International Airport Peshawar, Quetta International Airport, Multan International Airport, Faisalabad, Rahim Yar Khan, Turbat, Gwadar, old Benazir Bhutto International Airport and Sialkot International Airport.