The first flight of British airline Virgin Atlantic, which took off from Manchester, landed in Islamabad on Friday.
According to a press release by the British High Commission in Pakistan, another flight from the federal capital will take off for London’s Heathrow airport on December 13 and a third will head from Lahore to London on December 14.
The airline will operate three routes from Pakistan to the United Kingdom: two from Islamabad to London and Manchester and one from Lahore to London.
According to the statement by the British High Commission, Pakistan is the airline’s first new route since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
British High Commissioner Christian Turner said the beginning of the airline’s operations to Pakistan was a “historic moment”.
“Our 1.6 million strong Pakistani diaspora in the UK is at the heart of our ties,” he was quoted as saying by the press release.
“Eighteen months ago we had no British airlines flying in Pakistan; today we have over 20 direct flights a week to both Islamabad and Lahore. This is a sign of confidence in Pakistan and will improve people to people links and boost trade.
“Followed by the change in travel advice and return of England cricket team to Pakistan, it further shows #UKPakDosti.”
The airline will operate the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft on all routes from Pakistan, the press statement said, adding that the passengers will be provided with in-flight entertainment including movies and shows in Urdu. Halal food options will also be available.
“UK is home to the largest Pakistani diaspora community in the world, with around 1.6 million people,” the press release read.
“The new Virgin Atlantic services will provide vital connectivity for friends and relatives visiting family and loved ones, in addition to serving growing demand for business and leisure travel.”
Additionally, connecting flights to destinations in North America, including New York, Boston and Los Angeles will also be available. The airline is also offering “onward connectivity alongside its transatlantic joint venture partner Delta Airlines” to more than 200 destinations in North America.
The airline also has put in place measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which include “enhanced and thorough” cleaning practices at check in, boarding gates and onboard. The practice would include “electrostatic spraying of high-grade disinfectant” in cabins and lavatories before every flight.
Social distancing will be observed “wherever possible” and wearing a mask on flight will be compulsory. A health pack will be provided to all passengers, which will include three face masks, surface wipes and hand sanitiser.
In addition, the airline has “redesigned” its meals to minimise interaction “enclosed and controlled from preparation in a Covid-safe, monitored environment to the moment it is served”.
Furthermore, the airline will also provide “fast, efficient” cargo services which will “enable growing trade volumes between exporters and importers in both the UK and Pakistan”.
The press release noted that the UK is Pakistan’s “largest export market” for textile, apparel and machinery.
“We are thrilled to bring our award-winning service to customers in Pakistan,” the press statement quoted Virgin Atlantic South Asia’s Country Manager Alex McEwan as saying.
“We are confident that passengers will love flying with us on our cutting-edge Boeing 787 Dreamliner to London Heathrow, Manchester and beyond to North America.
“Our services will promote trade and provide vital connectivity between UK and Pakistan, enhancing already close ties. It has been a monumental effort to enable our set up in Pakistan, and I would like to thank the British High Commission and the Pakistan authorities for their unwavering support.”
The airline had announced its plans to commence operations to and from Pakistan in August. The airline’s request to commence operations was approved by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority last week.