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Tuesday Apr 21 2020
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First of 10 chartered flights for stranded Britons departs from Islamabad to London

LONDON/ISLAMABAD: The first among 10 chartered flights departed from Islamabad to London on Tuesday.

The chartered flights have been arranged by the British High Commission in Islamabad to repatriate approximately 2,500 Britons stranded in Pakistan. Qatar Airways will operate these 10 flights from Lahore and Islamabad to London and Manchester from April 21-26.

The special flights from Islamabad to London will run on April 21, 22, and 23, whereas the flights from Islamabad to Manchester will run on April 24, 25, 26, and 27.

Meanwhile, the flights from Lahore to London are scheduled for April 22 and 24 and a flight from Lahore to Manchester will run on April 26.

British High Commissioner to Pakistan Dr Christian Turner has personally supervised the arrangement and visited Islamabad airport to see off the first of the Britons returning home.

“I’ve reviewed the final arrangements that have been put in place for all the British people going back home to the UK. I am grateful to the government of Pakistan, Qatar Airways and the Islamabad Airport authorities for working so hard with my team over the last week in order to make their journeys as smooth as possible. I wish all those heading back home a safe journey,” said Dr Turner.

The special one-way flights have a price cap of £527.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has also issued a flight schedule for flights between UK and Pakistan beginning April 19 but many stranded Pakistanis in Britain are facing difficulties in securing a flight back home.

A stranded Pakistani, who held a valid ticket from London to Islamabad for April 19, said, "I am just coming back from Heathrow. Despite today’s flight, there was no staff or even PIA counter there. At least five Pakistanis were there looking for the PIA counter. They told me that they have been coming since three days but were unable to find anyone."

Faisal Effendi, a Pakistani law student stranded in the UK, said, "The uncertainty and confusion regarding flight operations persist. The last flight schedule issued by PIA was for April 16 but it got cancelled. It was the third flight cancelled in the current month. Yesterday, a new schedule was issued but booking is still not open."

Meanwhile, PIA maintains that all cancellations have been notified in advance and that the national carrier is doing everything to facilitate stranded people.

PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez, commenting on flights from UK to Pakistan, said, "We expect to facilitate more than 5,000 passengers. We already have accommodated 7,300 plus on our previous flights."

"Refunds can be obtained any time. However, we would suggest making bookings in advance to avoid inconvenience caused when a bookings are resumed and there is a rush. People will be accommodated through call centres, with direct calls going out to each passenger. Also, we request that all customers update us with their contact numbers."

Meanwhile, Pakistan High Commission in London said, "The Pakistani community and students in the UK are requested to keep visiting the High Commission's website www.phclondon.org for updates on travel and health related issues."