Pakistan Extends International Flight Suspension Until Mid-May

Pakistan has announced it will be extending its international flight ban until May 15th. The move comes as the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow in the country, and nations around the world look to avoid imported cases of the virus.

PIA 777
Pakistan had previously banned all domestic and international passenger flights until April 30th. Photo: Aero Pixels via Wikimedia Commons

Bans likely to remain in place

Pakistan’s most recent extension on its flight ban is not it’s first. The country has banned all domestic flights as well, in a bid to control the spread of the virus. According to data from John Hopkins University, Pakistan currently has just under 14,000 confirmed cases of the virus, with 292 deaths.

Pakistan International Airlines
Pakistan International Airlines has been operating only repatriation flights from all over the world. Photo: Aaron C via Wikimedia Commons

International flights during the coronavirus come with a number of risks. Passengers carrying the virus risk infecting those on board, especially crew, as well as people on the ground. These cases are known as imported cases and can lead to a sharp rise in total case counts if not quarantined early on. However, at this time, many countries are struggling to provide necessary resources such as quarantine facilities.

The extension of the ban will also put Pakistani airlines in jeopardy, leaving them battling for survival. Airlines have been forced to park almost their entire fleet as flying shows no signs of resuming soon. PIA, the country’s flag carrier, is currently only flying rescue flights.

Repatriation flights to continue

The ban only extends to scheduled passenger flights, meaning that any repatriation efforts are excluded. Pakistan has the sixth-largest diaspora in the world, especially in the Middle East. This will likely mean there could hundreds of thousands of citizens looking for a way to get home.

The country is currently in the midst of a massive repatriation effort to bring back its citizens. A tweet from a government official has released a schedule of flights that will bring home thousands of Pakistanis stranded abroad. Countries such as the UAE and Qatar, with large Pakistani populations, are seeing the most flights. Pakistan expects to bring home nearly 20,000 citizens using 103 flights by May 9th and will probably run more flights after then too.

Anyone stranded in a foreign country should contact their local embassy to get details on any potential repatriation flights.

When can we see such bans lifted?

Flight bans such as this one aren’t unique to Pakistan, dozens of countries around the world have done the same. While domestic flying will probably return once the number of daily cases decreases, international flights will be a lot more complicated. Some countries have even extended their bans until as late as September. However, with the unpredictable nature of the virus, each country will take its own call on when flights can resume.

What do you think about Pakistan’s flight ban? Have you been affected by it? Let us know in the comments below.