Virgin Atlantic, A British airline based out of England, announced on Thursday that it will be operating direct flights between the United Kingdom and Pakistan.
The airline said that it will start direct flights from Heathrow Airport, London to Lahore and Islamabad from December 2020. It will also operate direct flights from Manchester Airport to Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore.
The tickets will go on sale in September.
We’re thrilled to announce that from December, we’ll be flying direct to Pakistan. We’ll have flights from @HeathrowAirport to both Lahore and Islamabad, plus direct services from @manairport to Islamabad. Flights go on sale in September, and we can’t wait to welcome you. pic.twitter.com/61FS9dkaFb— virginatlantic (@VirginAtlantic) August 27, 2020
Currently, only PIA and the British Airways operate flights on the route. However, early in July this year the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority withdrew PIA’s permit to operate from Birmingham, Heathrow and Manchester airports. It took the decision after Pakistani Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan pronounced 262 pilot licenses ‘dubious’.
Sarwar’s statement dealt a fresh blow to PIA, already struggling for survival, as more than half of these pilots belong to it. As a result, PIA grounded 141 pilots suspected of fake licenses and fired 28 of them. The CAA also suspended 34 licenses.
On August 4, PIA sacked 60 pilots, of which 28 had fake flying licenses.
A day later, PIA signed a contract with Portuguese charter airline HiFly to resume flight operation to the United Kingdom.
PIA will charter an aircraft from the international company and use it for its flights to Europe. According to the airline’s spokesperson, aircraft Airbus A-330 will be used. It will use PIA’s call sign and slot during the flight, he said, adding that the operations will begin from August 14. HiFly is a Portuguese charter airline headquartered in Lisbon. It has four wide-body aircraft — two new Airbus A330-900s, one Airbus A330-200 and one A340-300.