ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will operate a special flight to Istanbul to evacuate the stranded Pakistanis following the attempted military coup by a faction of the Turkish armed forces on Saturday, announced the national carrier’s spokesman.
“On the directions of the prime minister, Chairman PIA Azam Saigol has said that airline will operate a ferry flight to Istanbul at the earliest to evacuate the Pakistanis stranded in the city,” he said.
“In this regard the airline has approached the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for obtaining necessary approvals and permissions.”
According to a statement by PIA, a Boeing-777 aircraft will be sent to Istanbul as soon as the formalities are completed.
PIA doesn’t fly to Turkey and has a code sharing arrangement with Turkish Airlines under which passengers can travel on PIA’s ticket on Turkish Airlines flights, the spokesman said.
More than 194 people — including 41 police, 47 civilians, two military officers and 104 described as “coup plotters” — were killed in clashes that erupted since Friday after forces attempted to seize power using tanks and attack helicopters, some strafing the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and parliament in Ankara, others seizing a major bridge in Istanbul.
Istanbul unrest disrupts flight schedules
Many international flights to Turkey were also cancelled despite efforts by the Ankara authorities to get life back to normal.
The US government said it has suspended all flights to Turkey, and banned all airlines from flying to the United States from Turkey due to uncertainty after an abortive coup attempt.
Turkish authorities were seeking Saturday to resume business as usual and Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport — shut down by the plotters — was gradually reopening.
But international carriers were preferring to wait and see before resuming a normal service.
Along with their US counterparts, Russian airlines are currently not flying passengers to Turkey although they are repatriating vacationers back home.
“President (Vladimir) Putin ordered the transport ministry and other agencies to properly inform passengers and organise their inbound flights from Turkish airports,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying Saturday by the Interfax news agency.
Major European carrier Lufthansa, the biggest German airline, cancelled all flights to Istanbul and Ankara on Saturday.
British Airways went further and cancelled all its Saturday flights to and from Turkey “in light of the events unfolding” there, a company spokeswoman said.
‘Security significantly diminished’
The US Federal Aviation Administration’s order, issued late Friday, comes as the US embassy in Ankara on Saturday instructed US government employees to avoid Ataturk airport owing to reports of sporadic gunfire.
“All airlines prohibited by FAA from flying to US from #Turkey directly or w/stopover,” the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said on Twitter.
The US embassy in Ankara added that security “at Ataturk airport is significantly diminished and US government employees have been instructed not to attempt to travel to and from Ataturk airport.” In reference to the FAA note, the embassy said that US airline carriers “are prohibited from flying to or from Istanbul and Ankara airports.
“All airline carriers, regardless of country of registry, are prohibited from flying into the United States from Turkey either directly or via third country,” the embassy said.
It advised US citizens in Turkey “to seek shelter in safe places,” avoid unnecessary travel, and monitor media reports.
The warnings remain in place even though Turkish airports reopened following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pre-dawn announcement of victory over discontented army officers who mounted a bloody attempt to overthrow him.
Lufthansa cancelled eight of the 10 flights scheduled between Germany and Turkey, including all flights to Ankara and Istanbul.
The two remaining flights will go to the resorts of Bodrum and Antalya, a Lufthansa spokesman told AFP.
The German airline would decide later in the day whether to run flights on Sunday, he added. Meanwhile, Putin asked officials to provide everything necessary for tourists awaiting flights to Turkey in Russian airports “until the situation becomes clear.”
Russia’s national carrier Aeroflot has cancelled its flights to Istanbul and Antalya on Saturday and Sunday.
Other smaller airlines were continuing their flights to southern Turkish resorts, with Easyjet and Thomas Cook saying they did not expect any changes to its schedules to places such as Antalya, Izmir and Rhodes.