DUBAI: Hundreds of Pakistanis crowded outside the Dubai office of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Saturday to re-book their tickets after flights to their home country resumed.
PIA said it has started with the restoration of its normal flight schedule to Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta stations.
Pakistan had closed its airspace for commercial flights from February 27 to March 1 after an exchange of hostilities between the two countries following the Pulwama terror attack in India.
25,000passengers affected by closure of Pakistan's airspace from February 27 to March 1
Scores of flights were affected, including those from Dubai to Pakistani cities.
On Saturday, Pakistanis of cancelled PIA flights headed to the airline’s Dubai office on Al Maktoum Street to re-book their tickets. The queues were categorised by the date of the original ticket. Police were present to ensure order at the scene.
Two PIA passengers, Abid Ali and Kashif Hussain Malek, said they were visiting Dubai for a conference last week but had not been able to return to Lahore.
400number of flights affected during four-day close of Pakistani airspace
“We checked out of our hotel Saturday morning and went to the airport thinking we could finally go home. But the PIA office there was closed so we came to the main PIA office,” Ali said.
Malek said: “After waiting outside the main office, we’ve just heard that flights to Lahore will resume only from Sunday. Maybe we can still catch a flight to another Pakistani city and then head to Lahore from there.”
Mohammad Arshad, who works in the food and beverage sector, in Dubai, who was going home for his annual leave, said: “When I went to the airport on February 28, the date of my flight, PIA told me they will call or email me regarding the rescheduling of my ticket, but no one has contacted me. My travel agent said he cannot re-book my ticket and told me to go to the main PIA office.”
Another Pakistani expat Mohammad Alam, a building watchman in Dubai, wanted to re-book a flight to Islamabad.
He said: “I’ve already lost two days of my annual leave. I was going back home after two years. I was asked at the airport on the night of February 27 for my name and number so someone could inform me what to do. No one called me so I came here today.”
Irshad, a driver who only gave his first name, also said no one from PIA contacted him for the re-booking.
PIA, majority-owned by the government, on Saturday said on its Twitter account (@Official_PIA) that over 8,000 passengers have already flown to Pakistan after the reopening of the airspace.
PIA said it is working with other passengers to ensure they too can travel home as soon as possible.
In a series of tweets, PIA said priority was being given to passengers in Gulf countries, those whose visas were expiring, and Umrah pilgrims.
The airline added that its staff were cooperating with passengers and thanked them. PIA staff’s leave has been cancelled so they can work on the issue.
Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Aviation and Privatisation, Mohammad Mian Soomro, said Prime Minister Imran Khan has instructed to facilitate the stranded passengers on a priority basis, especially those who are “stuck in Saudi Arabia and Gulf as they may be facing shortage of funds and expiry of their visas”.
President and CEO of PIA, Air Marshal Arshad Malik, is monitoring the restoration of operation and has directed all PIA officers and staff on PIA's entire network to complete the restoration job at the earliest.
During the last four days, more than 400 flights and 25,000 passengers have been affected. PIA’s staff deputed at stations are “working day and night” to facilitate the passengers. More than 8,000 passengers have been transported to their destination since restoration of the flight operations.
PIA’s staff at foreign stations are also putting in “all-out efforts for the convenience of passengers”.
All passengers are requested to visit PIA website and check their Flight Schedules on https://www.piac.com.pk/#schedules or call the PIA contact centre on +92 021 111 786 786.