ISLAMABAD: Limited domestic flight operations resumed in the country from five major airports on Saturday, as the country continued to gradually ease lockdown measures.
The first Pakistan International Airline (PIA) flight carrying 84 passengers departed from Karachi for Lahore at 1pm, along with flights for Lahore and Islamabad operated by a private airline.
In a video statement issued Friday, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had said 20% of domestic flights would resume from Saturday, but in limited capacity. The announcement came following a final decision taken by the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Thursday.
The five major airports allowed to restart operations include Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport, Islamabad International Airport (IIAP), Quetta International Airport, and Peshawar’s Bacha Khan International Airport.
Sarwar had said social distancing will be followed based on available seats and flights will only be allowed to fill 50% of their full capacity.
“Passengers will be provided the opportunity to travel safely,” he had added.
The move came “in view of the difficulties being faced by passengers in travelling between major cities in Pakistan”, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said on Twitter.
The minister, it added, noted that the “Aviation Division has prepared very strict SOPs ensuring disinfection, social distancing and safety for the airline crew and passengers”.
Apart from social distancing, safety measures include “disinfection of the aircraft prior to boarding, at least one vacant seat between the passengers, compulsory wearing of masks and use of hand sanitizer”. Furthermore, no food or beverages would be allowed in flight.
Passengers will be required to fill health declaration forms before boarding the airplane and subjected to thermal scanning on entry and exit into and from a city. All luggage will be disinfected and no meet and greet will be allowed at the airport.
Drivers coming to pick and drop passengers will be advised to stay inside their respective vehicles in the parking lot.
A spokesperson for the PCAA said domestic flights will be operated by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and one private company for now. The national carrier’s administration said tickets sales may start as early as evening today.
The ban on international flight operations, meanwhile, has been extended until May 31.
“Remaining provisions as applicable to the suspension of international flights reflected in previous orders remain unchanged,” the PCAA said on Twitter.