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PIA operates special flights for Umrah pilgrims’ repatriation

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PIA operates special flights for Umrah pilgrims’ repatriation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has finalised the flight schedule to bring back the Umrah pilgrims stranded in Saudi Arabia.

PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez said that the national flag carrier will operate 22 special flights for the repatriation of Umrah pilgrims stranded in Saudi Arabia from Jeddah and Madina.

According to details, the pilgrims will be flown to Karachi through three special flights, Lahore via 13 flights and Islamabad through five flights.

Ten flights had been scheduled to operate on Monday while 22 on Tuesday.

The PIA has the seating capacity of 7,900 passengers against the booking of 5,000 Umrah pilgrims.

Hafeez said the national flag carrier had operated 65 flights from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia from March 13 to March 15 and brought back 17,184 passengers.

The Saudi authorities had suspended all flight operations from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia for two weeks starting from March 15 due to the coronavirus threat.

A circular issued by the Saudi government on Sunday however allowed PIA to hold flight operations from Jeddah and Madina for the return of Pakistani Umrah pilgrims.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs has established three Front Desk Facilitation Counters at Jeddah airport to assist the Umrah pilgrims.

The ministry’s Jeddah office staff has been stationed at the airport to ensure round-the-clock coordination with Saudi authorities for the facilitation of the pilgrims.

Meanwhile, flight operations at Dammam and Riyadh airports have been completely halted.

The kingdom had already banned travel to some 19 countries, including neighbouring Arab states, and said it would impose a fine of up to 500,000 riyals ($133,000) on people who did not disclose health information and travel details at entry points.

Other preventive measures include locking down the oil-producing region of Qatif, where many of its cases are centred, suspending Umrah, closing schools and cinemas nationwide, cancelling conferences and sporting events, and postponing a G20 ministerial meeting.