ISLAMABAD   -  The first flight of British Airways (BA-261) after resuming its flight operation to Pakistan with gap of eighteen years is arriving here at Islamabad International Airport (IIAP) on Monday (June 3) at 9:25 am from Heathrow (London).

Some 240 passengers will arrive by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner with Pakistani and British flags in their hands, said Spokesman of Aviation Division here Sunday.

In line with the spirit of this joyous occasion, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Minister for Aviation, Abdur Razak Dawood, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production, Zulfiqar Hussain Bukhari, Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development along with Shahrukh Nusrat, Secretary Aviation, senior officials of Aviation Division, and the British High Commissioner will welcome the passengers at IIA, it further said.

The same aircraft, as flight BA-260, will depart for Heathrow at 11:10 am with passengers on board from Islamabad.

Later in the day, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Minister for Aviation, Abdur Razak Dawood, Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production, and Ms Firdous Ashiq Awan along with Thomas Drew, the British Higher Commissioner, Andrew Brem chief commercial officer British Airways and Shahrukh Nusrat Secretary Aviation/DG CAA will hold a joint press conference.

As per the flight programme during the summer season, the British Airways will fly thrice a week between London Heathrow and Islamabad.

Considering presence of large Pakistani diaspora in the United Kingdom, the BA flights will provide a convenient connection between the two countries.

Apart from the diaspora, the flight link will promote cultural values, tourism and business opportunities between the United Kingdom and Pakistan.

As a new hub for air travel, Islamabad International Airport will provide easy and convenient access to all parts of Pakistan.

Several other major air operators have shown keen interest in initiating operations to Islamabad. It is expected that with the growth of number of passengers and cargo traffic, the initiatives will provide impetus to the growth of the aviation sector in line with the National Aviation Policy, 2019.

The Aviation Division stands committed to provide world-class passenger experience at Pakistan’s airports with its state-of-the-art facilities and technological excellence.

According to BBC, British Airways stopped flying to the country after a bombing in Islamabad in 2008, which killed more than 50 people.

But the airline is now scheduled to fly three times a week to Islamabad from London Heathrow on Boeing 787s. It is the only western airline to serve Pakistan. In September 2008, a bomb was detonated in a dumper truck outside the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad. More than 250 people were injured and 54 were killed in the blast. Shortly after the explosion, BA suspended all flights, declaring: “We will not compromise on the safety of our customers, staff or planes.”

But in December last year, the airline said it would restart flights to Pakistan’s capital.

A new airport was opened in Islamabad in 2018, which has eased concerns about both security and congestion.

Until Sunday, Pakistan’s PIA was the only airline to run direct flights from Pakistan to the UK.

British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Thomas Drew, said BA was joining “an increasing number of British companies doing business in Pakistan”.