Ten charter flights, organised by the UK Government and run by Qatar Airways, will repatriate around 2,500 stranded British travellers from Pakistan to the UK.
The government announced that flights would run from Islamabad and Lahore to London and Manchester from April 21-27. Flights are expected to cost £527 and are free for under 2s.
The British High Commission in Islamabad had been working with Pakistan national carrier PIA to bring back stranded Britons but after multiple flight cancellations, exorbitant ticket prices and a lack of coordination, the British government decided to use Qatar Airways instead.
More than 7,500 British nationals who do not usually reside in Pakistan have already returned to the UK by commercial means, but thousands more remain stranded.
The government has announced chartered flights to rescue stranded Britons from Peru, China and India, but the same facility has not been given to Britons stuck in Pakistan. Many of those stuck are elderly without medication who have an immediate need to be repatriated back to their country.
Foreign Office Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, said: “Thousands more British travellers stranded in Pakistan can now fly home thanks to these 10 charter flights. I understand this has been a difficult period for those wanting to return and I am grateful for their patience.
“These extra flights will bring around 2,500 more people home – joining the 7,500 British nationals who do not reside in Pakistan who returned on commercial flights following extensive co-operation between the UK and Pakistan governments. This has been a hugely challenging operation and I’m grateful for the hard work of all those involved in making it happen.”
British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Christian Turner, added: “I know how stressful and difficult the suspension of Pakistan’s international flights has been, leaving so many British travellers unable to get home. There has been a huge effort from the teams across the Pakistan network to help people to return to the UK.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has also announced daily flights from Pakistan to the UK but has not announced the exact schedule yet.
A PIA spokesman confirmed the development saying: “Demand is high and being the national carrier we have to step forward in the time of the need.”
Pakistan is in a state of semi-lockdown because of the coronavirus crisis. Over 8,000 cases have been confirmed in the country with 167 deaths.