Saudi aviation team Lead Inspector Mohammad Al Ajami with the director security Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority Air Commodore (Retd.) Shahid Qadir. Image Credit: CAA

Islamabad: A delegation of eight officials from the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) in Saudi Arabia has concluded the initial phase of their visit to Pakistan.

Led by Lead Inspector Mohammad Al Ajami, the team returned to Saudi Arabia on June 7 after inspecting security processes and arrangements at Karachi Airport.

The delegation is scheduled to return on June 13 to continue their inspections at airports in Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, Sialkot and Multan.

Security measures reviewed at Karachi Airport

During their visit to Karachi Airport, the GACA delegation examined security measures implemented by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Gerry’s-Dnata, one of the world’s largest air services providers, and Pakistan’s Airport Security Force (ASF). They also reviewed the security arrangements put in place by Saudi Airlines.

The focus of the review was passenger and cargo security, catering services, and baggage handling. Additionally,

“The inspectors carefully examined passenger pre-boarding, non-passenger screening, hold baggage screening, CCTV system and restricted area access among other security measures enforced at the Jinnah International Airport Karachi” according to Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesperson.

Review and recommendations

The official statement said that the GACA inspectors expressed their satisfaction with the existing security arrangements. The delegation also provided recommendations to CAA to further enhance security protocols in the future. Following the conclusion of the first phase, the Saudi delegation bid farewell to Karachi and returned to Saudi Arabia. They are scheduled to resume their inspections in Pakistan’s major cities in the second phase of their visit on June 13.

The purpose of this visit was to assess the security measures implemented at Pakistani airports for direct flights to Saudi Arabia. It comes after the signing of the ‘Road to Makkah’ agreement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on May 17. The agreement aims to simplify the immigration process for Pakistani pilgrims traveling to the holy city, ensuring a smooth journey. It includes pre-clearance facilities at Pakistani airports, eliminating the need for processing upon arrival in Saudi Arabia. Initially implemented at Islamabad International Airport, the initiative will be expanded to include Karachi and Lahore airports, facilitating the travel experience for pilgrims.

Saudia, formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, is among the top three foreign airlines in Pakistan in terms of passenger volume, according to CAA statistics from July 2021 to June 2022.