British Pakistanis face travel chaos as PIA strike continues

Thousands of British Pakistanis are facing the prospect of having to cancel or postpone their trips to Pakistan as a strike at the national airline shows no sign of ending.

The industrial action by its staff has forced Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to suspend all of its flights to domestic and foreign destinations, including London and New York – grounding thousands of travellers and crippling the country’s major airports.

The strike is in its sixth day as employees protest plans to privatise Pakistan’s flag carrier, which was previously dubbed the world’s least productive airline.

Airline spokesman Danial Hassan Gillani told Bloomberg: “We have no data available on how many and where passengers with confirmed PIA tickets are waiting, because the entire system is shut, servers are down and no booking is being done.”

Gilani said agreement had been reached with rival airlines to fly all domestic and international passengers.

However, customers must pay the difference if the rival company’s fare is greater and the backlog is expected to take days to clear.

The strike continues despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s warning the demonstration was illegal and those taking part could face up to a year in prison under a law that restricts union activity in state-administered sectors.

In December, Islamabad announced it would complete the partial sale of the carrier by July, following years of crushing losses and mismanagement that have battered the airline’s reputation.

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