In a particularly unique flight, a PIA-chartered Hi Fly A330neo carried one passenger from Manchester to Islamabad on Saturday. The plane usually seats 371 passengers but ongoing restrictions on travel from the UK mean others could not fly. Pakistan International is currently banned from flying to the EU and UK following a fatal crash last May.
The Pakistan government suspended all flights from the UK on 22nd December following the news of a more transmissible strain of COVID-19. However, the government opted to make an exception on humanitarian grounds for one passenger from Gujrat, according to ARY News.
The exception meant the Hi Fly A330neo, with a capacity of 371 passengers, only had one passenger on the Manchester-Islamabad flight. In a video, one of the crew members expressed his surprise about the flight and highlighted how it would be nearly impossible for this to happen in any other circumstances.
The passenger was reportedly seated in the business class cabin for the seven-hour journey, not that there was a shortage of seat choice!
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
The flight from Manchester to Islamabad was operated on January 3rd, departing from the airport at 19:16 local time. Flight time was just under seven and a half hours between the two cities, and the plane landed in Islamabad at 07:43 AM local time.
Data from FlightRadar24.com shows that the flight (5M-702/PK-9702) is usually flown by an A330-300 but was upgraded to an A330neo on the day of this flight. It’s currently unclear why this occurred. Simple Flying has reached out to PIA for a statement and the article will be updated when it is received.
COVID-19 has reshaped the airline industry as we know it. Routes between Pakistan and the UK are usually full, with flights offered by British Airways, Pakistan International, and most recently Virgin Atlantic. However, the pandemic and new strain identified in December have once again seen connectivity plummet between the countries.
Some nations have begun easing border restrictions with the UK, putting in place strict testing and quarantine requirements. However, demand is unlikely to return until a vaccine is available at a large scale to the population, which will take months.
The further reduction of flights comes at a difficult time for PIA, which is still reeling from a fatal crash in May and an EU flight ban. The airline had chosen Hi Fly to fly wet lease planes and fly key routes to cities like Paris and London. However, demand for flights remains low.
Pakistan International is currently taking steps to reduce its staff and return to profitability in a few years. According to Geo News, the airline’s voluntary separation scheme has seen 2,000 staff opt in to leave. Overall, PIA has removed 20% of its regular workforce in the last few months. However, the coming year will likely remain bumpy for the carrier.
What do you think about the one passenger flight? Let us know in the comments!