Ghulam Dastgir
Pakistan Ambassador to the UAE Ghulam Dastgir says that special flights to repatriate stranded Pakistanis from the UAE will start on April 18. Image Credit:

Dubai: Special flights to repatriate stranded Pakistanis from the UAE will start from April 18, a top diplomat told Gulf News.

Pakistan's ambassador to the UAE, Ghulam Dastgir, told Gulf News that the limited flight operation would start soon, in coordination with the UAE authorities.

“The first special PIA flight will take stranded passengers from Dubai to Islamabad on April 18 and then gradually more flights will be operated from Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well,” he revealed.

Ambassador Datgir added that the Pakistan government was working closely with the UAE government to repatriate the stranded Pakistanis on a priority basis.

“Priority will be given to those stranded people who came here on visit visas and those who have cancelled their residency visas/work permits and those who lost their jobs and want to go home,” he said.

Two flydubai flights have already repatriated more than 400 released Pakistani prisoners to Faisalabad and Peshawar on Tuesday night.

Limited flight operation

“I want to ensure our community members to be patient as repatriation process would start soon,” the ambassador reiterated.

He added that the PIA would start limited flight operation while other airlines including flydubai, Emirates and Etihad Airways were also expected to get permission to operate special flights to different cities in Pakistan. He said more than 25,000 Pakistanis in the UAE have registered with the Pakistani missions demanding to go back home.

Flight schedule and more details will be announced as soon as the government and the airlines finalise the arrangements. Regular flight operation in Pakistan will remain suspended until April 21.

Flights only for Pakistanis

The ambassador made it clear that the special flights will carry only stranded Pakistani citizens from the UAE. “No Pakistani passengers will be allowed to travel to UAE from Pakistan as long as the UAE’s travel restrictions remain in place,” he made it clear.

The UAE has barred entry of foreigners including the UAE residents who are currently outside the country till further notice as part of precautionary measures to combat coronavirus.

Emirates flights plan

When contacted, a spokesperson of Emirates aiirlines 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.”

PIA is ready

Speaking to Gulf News, Shahid Ali Moghal, PIA’s Regional Manager in UAE, confirmed that the Pakistan’s national carrier would started limited flight operation to the UAE from April 18. “Initially, the special PIA flights will be operated from Dubai to Islamabad but later it will start landing at other airports including Lahore and Karachi as soon as quarantine facilities are ready,” he added.

Moghal said flights would also be operated from Abu Dhabi to take stranded Pakistanis. However, he made it clear that it would be a limited flight operation in line the instructions from the government. “All passengers travelling to Pakistan will have to stay in quarantine centres at the airports for at least seven days before they were allowed to go home,” he revealed.

Private airline

Abbas Raza Dar, Senior Manager of Airblue, a private airline of Pakistan, said they are ready to operate flights if they are given permission by the government. “Being the low cost airline, most of blue-collar workers and low-income group of people love to travel with Airblue,” he said, adding that the airline would start flights as soon as the travel restrictions are removed.

How to book tickets

A PIA spokesperson in Karachi said passengers can contact their nearest PIA office, website or call centre for booking seats. Pakistanis stranded in different countries can also purchase tickets from Pakistan to travel back to their home country, the spokesperson said.

Six airports to open

Meanwhile, the Pakistan government on Tuesday decided to open six airports in the country from April 20.  The decision was announced by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning Dr Moeed Yousuf. He said the reopening of these airports will facilitate the Pakistanis returning to the country from abroad.