Saudi: Pakistani Expats, Pilgrims Struggle To Re-book Flights

Expat vacationers and Umrah pilgrims have been struggling to reschedule their travel bookings after flight operations to the country resumed after a brief suspension amid mounting tension with neighboring India.

Travel agents across the Kingdom are having a tough time updating travel plans for their passengers.

Also, many Pakistanis who were spending their vacation back home are struggling to rebook their flights to the Kingdom with some of them having their exit-re-entry visas about to expire.

On Friday, Pakistan partially reopened its airspace, allowing international flights to operate to and from Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar. On Sunday, it resumed flights to Lahore, where a significant number of people travel from the Kingdom.

Pakistan closed its airspace on Feb. 27 amid escalating tensions with India after the Indian Air Force carried out strikes on what it claimed to be terrorist bases inside Pakistan.

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The flights from the Kingdom remained affected for thousands of passengers having to reschedule their flights.

The Haj and Umrah Ministry hosted the stranded pilgrims in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah during the closure period but the Umrah operators faced the uphill task of clearing the backlog of passengers.

The passengers started approaching travel agencies and airline offices for further information after media reports said flight operations to Pakistan resumed. However, the reservation systems of major airlines were not accepting immediate bookings for the next couple of days, said a travel agent.

All major airlines that operate to Pakistan have offered a full refund to their passengers, but the vast majority of passengers were not in a mood to opt for the refund and insisted on rescheduling their bookings at the earliest possible opportunity, according to travel agencies.

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PIA and Saudi Arabian Airlines provide priority to Umrah pilgrims and passengers whose visas were about to expire.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered PIA to give priority to the passengers stranded in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Pakistan’s Aviation and Privatisation Minister Muhammad Mian Soomro said in a statement that Prime Minister Khan had given instructions to facilitate stranded passengers on a priority, “especially, those who are stuck in Saudi Arabia and Gulf as they may be facing a shortage of funds and expiry of their visas.»

Following the instructions, PIA chief Air Marshal (retired) Arshad Malik assured the government that every possible effort will be made to clear the backlog of passengers within the shortest possible time.

Source: Saudi Gazette