After a break of 11 years, British Airways is once more flying to Pakistan.
Crowds were waiting at Islamabad International Airport to greet the British Airways 787 as it taxied towards the terminal. The BA Dreamliner had both the Union Jack and the green and white Pakistani flag flying proudly from the roof hatch as it pulled up to the gate.
The excitement is not only about the return of the British carrier after such a long hiatus, but also the fact British Airways is opening an office in the country’s capital too.
On-board the first flight in 10 years was Chief Commercial Officer at British Airways, Andrew Brem, who is quoted in a statement published by British Airways saying,
“Today is a great occasion for British Airways as we resume flights to Islamabad after a decade. The atmosphere on board our state-of-the-art 787 aircraft was spectacular, as was the warm welcome on the ground. British Airways have a proud history of flying to Pakistan – we first operated flights to Islamabad in 1976 – and we couldn’t be more excited to be back.”
British Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox MP was also upbeat about BA’s return to Pakistan after a 10-year break saying in the same statement:
“The relaunch of British Airways flights between the UK and Pakistan after more than ten years will be a major boost for trade between our two countries. It is no surprise that it is an iconic British airline that is the first western airline to fly return to Pakistan, a symbol of the strong and growing relationship between our two countries.
“I congratulate the British Airways team, the British High Commission and the impressive efforts of the Pakistani government for making this happen. We are confident that British Airways will act as a catalyst to bring even more British companies to one of the world’s largest markets.”
How many flights a week will there be?
Currently, British Airways have scheduled three flights a week between Heathrow and Islamabad, departing on a Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from London using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Three classes of service will be available to passengers for the 7hr 50 min flight, comprised of World Traveller (BA long-haul economy option) World Traveller Plus (BA’s upgraded economy) and Club World (business class).
Seeing, as Pakistan is a primarily Muslim nation, a halal meal will be served in all classes of service. Special attention will be paid to ensure that there is no pork or alcohol used in the preparation of sauces.
Customers can also pre-order special meals including vegetarian and vegan options.
Return fares start at £488 ($619) in World Traveller, £709 ($899) in World Traveller Plus and £1,499 ($1,900) in Club World.
Not all plain sailing for British Airways
On paper, British Airways being the first western carrier to return to Pakistan sound like money in the bank for the UK airline. The only competition they will face when it comes to direct Islamabad – London flights is from Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
Up until now, PIA had a virtual monopoly flying to and from the UK to Pakistan, but that’s about to change as BA enters the market with a superior product.
At the moment PIA is flying a Boeing 777-200 aircraft on the route. This is no match for British Airways and its new 787 Dreamliner. Equipped with lie-flat seats in business class and a state-of-the-art inflight entertainment system, British Airways is offering a superior product at a competitive price.
Where British Airways has to be concerned is competition from Middle East carriers such as Etihad and Emirates. The Gulf carriers may opt for lower ticket prices and other incentives to get passengers onto their one-stop itineraries rather than a direct London-Islamabad flight.
Why did British Airways stop flying to Pakistan?
British Airways, together, with other western nation’s flag carriers, stopped flying to Pakistan in 2008 after 54 people were killed in a terrorist attack at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad.
Now, following the opening of Islamabad’s new International Airport, British Airways will be the first western airline to return to Pakistan after security concerns at the airport were addressed.
Over 500 security personnel will be stationed at the airport to ensure passenger safety. New airport also has 85 surveillance towers build around the perimeter to ensure no unauthorised person can enter.
Will you be flying BA to Pakistan? Let us know in the comments.