Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) are suspending flights from Leeds-Bradford Airport – leaving the area without any direct flights to the sub-continent.
The airline, which is reported to have suffered from financial problems in recent years, is stopping its flights from Leeds-Bradford to Islamabad after May 15.
An airline spokesman said all PIA flights between Leeds-Bradford and Islamabad would be suspended from May 15 until further notice. He said passengers should visit the airline’s website for further updates.
A Leeds-Bradford Airport spokesman said: “We are aware of this. It is very disappointing news and we are working with PIA regarding this matter.”
PIA launched the flights in 2008 to replace a short-lived Shaheen Air International service which was axed due to problems with plane availability.
The airline’s decision to fly out of Leeds-Bradford was hailed as a “major achievement for the airport” by LBIA commercial director Tony Hallwood. He also described the airline’s route as a “vital international link,” and said there was a significant demand for the flights.
If the route is axed, passengers from Yorkshire will have to travel to Manchester, Birmingham, or London Heathrow for flights to Pakistan.
In recent years, reports of financial problems at PIA have appeared in the international press. The airline has also been stricken by a number of scandals. Last year, pilot Irfan Faiz was jailed after admitting being “impaired by drink” in the cockpit of a plane at LBIA, and in a separate incident air steward Syed Shah was sent to prison for attempting to smuggle heroin into the UK through Leeds Bradford.
Meanwhile, Bradford MP George Galloway has urged PIA to reconsider the move.
“Not only is it a crass and insensitive one,” the MP said, “it’s an economically crazy one. This is a growing route – my information is that passenger numbers have increased by a third in the last 12 months – so why axe what is burgeoning route and, moreover, one that is growing in a time of economic austerity? I will be contacting the PIA management to point out how damaging this is to people of Pakistani heritage not just in my constituency but the wider area, and how self-defeating it is for PIA, its image and its coffers.”
Galloway added: “The plan, if you can call it that, is to move the operation to Manchester, which will be hugely inconvenient to the Pakistani community in Bradford, which numbers more than 100,000, and will add hours to their journeys. I hope all politicians of whatever hue will join me in urging the airline to listen to sense and keep the direct route open. I am sure there is going to be a huge backlash against this economically witless plan.”