Thursday Mar 26, 2020
Hundreds of foreign nationals are stranded in Pakistan after the country closed its airspace till April 4.
To deal with this crisis, PIA had announced it will operate four special flights from Pakistan to Toronto, London, Manchester and Birmingham for the stranded foreign nationals. Customers were charged as much as triple the amount for a single journey due to the non-availability of other options but PIA has now cancelled those special flights.
The national carrier took to Twitter to announce the cancellation of these special flights. "Keeping the health and safety of citizens in consideration, (Government) has withdrawn the permissions to allow PIA to operate to these territories. In view of that PIA is cancelling the planned special flights to Toronto, London, Manchester and Birmingham scheduled for Friday and Saturday. PIA regrets the inconvenience caused to the passengers," it wrote.
According to the customers who had bought the expensive tickets, refunds are not being given for the cancelled flights. Before the statement confirming the cancellation of the services, PIA said: "Don’t refund your ticket if your flights are being cancelled due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions. You get automatic validity once regular flight operations are restored."
Customers expressed their fury over the sudden change of their travel plans. A Twitter user commented, "This is a farce. People have bought tickets (again). You've made them pay an extortionate cost to get their loved ones home and you do this? Flights are arriving in the UK every single day. Why are you doing this right now?".
Nazia Rehman, who claimed to have paid £2000 for the tickets said, "Are you serious? We just paid nearly £2000 to get on this flight! I need to get home to my kids. At a stressful time like this, how can you do this to us?"
Twitter user Habib ur Rehman replied to PIA saying, "JUST RETURN OUR UK CITIZENS BACK HOME۔ Why we Dual Nationals are being conned again & again by PIA? Our relatives have paid double fare on flight for Saturday to return back home to UK but they r told now once again that flights r cancelled. What a charade! This is not acceptable".
Pakistan had 1,118 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of the filing of this report. Many foreign nationals are apprehensive of the healthcare system of Pakistan and want to return to their countries as soon as possible but uncertain policies by the government especially pertaining to PIA have increased their anguish.