Virgin Atlantic details operations to Pakistan

Sep 14, 2020

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

Last month, Virgin Atlantic announced it would be launching three new, nonstop routes to Pakistan from December 2020. The airline planned to commence flights from London Heathrow (LHR) to Islamabad (ISB) and Lahore (LHE), as well as Manchester (MAN) to Islamabad, subject to regulatory approvals.

Over the weekend, and as first detailed by RoutesOnline, the airline uploaded the service schedule for the three routes. First up, the carrier will launch four weekly flights between Manchester (MAN) and Islamabad (ISB) as of 10 December. The 787-9-operated route will fly on the following schedule:

  • VS362 Manchester (MAN) 12:35 p.m. Departure ⇒ Islamabad (ISB) 1 a.m. (+1) Arrival
  • VS363 Islamabad (ISB) 3:30 a.m. Departure ⇒ Manchester (MAN) 7 a.m. Arrival

As of 12 December, Virgin will launch three weekly flights between London Heathrow (LHR) and Islamabad (ISB). The 789-operated flights will fly on the following schedule:

  • VS378 London Heathrow (LHR) 12:30 p.m. Departure ⇒ Islamabad (ISB) 1 a.m. (+1) Arrival
  • VS379 Islamabad (ISB) 3:30 a.m. Departure ⇒ London Heathrow (LHR) 7 a.m. Arrival

Finally, as of 13 December, Virgin will commence four weekly flights between LHR and Lahore (LHE). The 789-operated flights will fly on the following schedule:

  • VS364 London Heathrow (LHR) 9:50 p.m. Departure ⇒ Lahore (LHE) 10:20 a.m. (+1) Arrival
  • VS365 Lahore (LHE) 1:25 p.m. Departure ⇒ London Heathrow (LHR) 5 p.m. Arrival

The surprise announcement from August came at a time when airlines worldwide had reduced services and slashed routes completely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virgin Atlantic has been hit particularly hard as many destinations in its existing route network, such as the United States and South Africa, are currently not allowing British travellers entry.

Related: Virgin Atlantic to temporarily suspend passenger operations

Pakistan’s flag carrier PIA had, pre-pandemic, maintained a substantial route network between the United Kingdom and Pakistan. PIA has since been banned from flying to Europe (including the U.K.) for the remainder of 2020 following a review of the airline’s safety practices by the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA). A PIA Airbus A320 crashed in May 2020 in Pakistan with 97 passengers and crew killed. An investigation revealed the captain and first officer failed to follow standard safety procedures, or recognise alarms. The EASA also understands a “high number” of PIA pilots licences are invalid.

The ban on PIA represents an opening for Virgin Atlantic to commence flying between the two countries for the first time.

“Pakistan is an extremely exciting opportunity for us – it boasts one of the largest foreign-born populations in both the UK and the US and, as people start to travel to visit loved ones, we’re anticipating the demand  to visit friends and relatives will increase post COVID-19″, Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic explained. “Both Lahore and Islamabad are popular year-round destinations and we look forward to welcoming travellers onboard as demand for leisure and business travel gradually increases to the region”.

Related: 5 things I wish I’d known before travelling to Pakistan

The airline also hopes to connect travellers between Pakistan and the United States, via its Heathrow and Manchester hubs. The U.K. Foreign Office retains ‘Do Not Travel’ advice to Pakistan because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Arriving passengers must isolate for 14 days on arrival into Pakistan, and for 14 days on their return to the U.K.

The flights, however, are still yet to go on sale on Virgin’s site. They’re set to be on offer from later this month.

British Airways operates flights from London Heathrow to Islamabad only, five times weekly in September,  with daily services from October onwards.

Featured image by Muhammad Owais Khan/Getty Images

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