One of the biggest and well known airlines in the world is set to begin operations in Pakistan. Virgin Atlantic is set to commence operations from the country in Pakistan and will start services between Britain and Pakistan. The country ‘s airliners are currently facing a ban on flying to most European destinations due to a recent scandal regarding unregistered pilot licences.
The airline which is majorly owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group who have a 51% share and by US airline Delta who have the remaining 49% share have said that its flights will go on sale next month, becoming the second western carrier after British Airways to serve destinations in the country.
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A tweet from the Airliner stated that “We’re thrilled to announce that from December, we’ll be flying direct to Pakistan.” The company’s trade creditors voted in favour of a 1.2 billion pound ($1.6 billion) rescue plan on Tuesday confirming the start of operations to and from Pakistan. The tweet further mentioned that “We’ll have flights from Heathrow to both Lahore and Islamabad, plus direct service from Manchester to Islamabad.”
Pakistan have grounded 262 pilots for “dubious” qualifications late June, prompted by a preliminary report into a crash in Karachi in May that found that the pilots did not follow standard protocol and disregarded alarms which were set by the aircraft. That crash killed 97 passengers and crew and is one of the most catastrophic crashes in the history of the country.
Following the crash, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) banned two Pakistani airlines from flying to the bloc for six months, while Britain and the United States have also revoked landing rights for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). In addition, many global safety boards have also downgraded the national carrier’s rating over aviation safety risks and several countries have grounded Pakistani pilots from operating in their country.
Since many people in Pakistan have lost hope in their own national carriers, other major airlines have seen opportunity and the crash has given openings to the likes of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic on PIA’s most lucrative routes and although PIA has resumed flights to the UK leasing a plane from Portugal-based Hi Fly, cabin crew and pilots are Portuguese, it is still hard for citizens of Pakistan to gain their trust back and put it in the hands of PIA. PIA spokesman Abdullah H. Khan said a healthy competition was good for the industry. “We sincerely hope that we’ll be able to restore our suspension before or during that time,” said Khan.