ISLAMABAD   -  Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan on Tuesday informed the Senate that the government was restructuring Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to improve its services in order to satisfy the passengers.

He, in a written reply, said all appropriate steps would be taken to bring the airline at par with those of other countries.

He further said that COVID-19 pandemic had affected the travel industry globally, and Pakistan was no exception. “Travel restrictions imposed during pandemic internationally and within Pakistan brought PIA flight operations to a halt in March, 2020,” Ghulam Sarwar said, and added, “The operation partially resumed in May, 2020, and the number of flights has been increasing gradually since then.”

The minister told the upper house that PIA was now operating four flights to Saudi Arabia and three to UAE from Multan airport while three weekly domestic flights to Karachi and two to Islamabad in the current winter schedule.

He said the PIA was closely monitoring the market and more flights would be added with increase in demand. He said existing Pakistan-Saudi Arabia fares were Rs64,100, inclusive of all taxes.

He admitted that the PIA had to increase fares of its flights from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia between 16th September and 30th September due to various reasons.

Ghulam Sarwar said as per Saudi authorities’ directives all those Pakistanis whose Aqama visas were valid till 30th September, 2020 could return to Saudi Arabia within the given time period.

The minister added in order to accommodate the passengers whose visas were expiring on 30th September, PIA had mounted extra section flights for which permission was granted by Saudi authorities on the condition of maintaining social distancing by restricting aircraft capacity to 75 percent, adding all Saudi Arabia-bound flights will be operated as ferry flights (zero passengers load).

The minister told the Senate that the PIA reluctantly increased its fares in order to meet at least operational cost.

He added that the PIA had gradually decreased its fares on all Pak-Saudi Arabia routes.