First direct flight to bring back Pakistanis stranded in US to run on May 12: PIA spokesperson

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KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will fly its first flight on May 12 to bring back Pakistani citizens stranded in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic, a spokesperson for the national carrier said Sunday.

The chartered airplane has been scheduled to fly Islamabad-Washington-Islamabad, the spokesperson said, adding that this would become the first flight in Pakistan’s history to travel to the US non-stop and would be 14.5 hours long.

The plane would take off from the federal capital without any passengers, according to the spokesperson, who added that 12 flights in total have been scheduled for this purpose — to repatriate Pakistanis stranded in the US as the pandemic worsens.

On the other hand, several Pakistani students remain stranded across the UK, desperately awaiting assistance from the authorities back home.

The UK had on March 23 announced a nationwide lockdown with travel restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic, leaving thousands of international students from different countries, including Pakistan, stuck due to cancellation of flight operations.

Students complained of no response from the national carrier, saying neither the PIA was “answering my calls or responding to my emails” nor the Pakistani High Commission in London “replied to any of my emails yet”.

“They have just sent me an automated response,” said Fawad Ahmed Malik, a student at University of Hertfordshire studying operations and supply chain management since January 2019.

“No one from either the PIA or High Commission has contacted me so far. My parents in Islamabad are also worried as I have no money at all to eat or live,” he added.

The High Commission, on the other hand, said it had exclusively designated First Secretary Muhammad Aneel Zafar for students affairs and publicised it in the media and on the mission’s website.

“More than 1,800 stranded Pakistanis are registered with us. Priority is accorded as mentioned in the High Commissioner’s message to the community.

“Keeping in view the student’s situation, the High Commission will provide necessary support to him,” a spokesperson for the High Commission added.

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