Virgin Atlantic to expand operations in Pakistan

Company will increase frequency of direct flights between Lahore and Islamabad, and the UK  

LAHORE: After two years of successful operations in Pakistan, Virgin Atlantic will be expanding operations in the country with the inclusion of additional flights between Lahore and Islamabad, and the United Kingdom. 

The airline’s decision to double down on Pakistan comes as part of its recovery efforts to recuperate its losses from the pandemic as it is strategically deploying its aircrafts based on demand. 

It is set to join the SkyTeam alliance in early 2023 and will be the only British airline in the alliance as it seeks to enhance group services to and from London Heathrow and Manchester. Its decision to boost flights to and from Pakistan is likely based on the same rationale and can be even seen as complementary to it. 

Virgin Atlantic has benefited from the exit of other airlines on the UK-Pakistan route with British Airways ceasing its Lahore-London operations earlier this year with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) still reeling from the aftermath of its licence debacle. The latter is particularly beneficial for Virgin’s operations. 

The British airline will likely operate five two-way flights on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday from Lahore to London. The airline will also operate four flights from Islamabad.

It may be noted here that PIA’s licence issue dates back to the crash of Flight 8303 on 22 May 2020 after which then Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan alleged that 150 pilots had fake licences. This led to the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) banning direct flights from Pakistan, and the government subsequently seizing the licences of 250 pilots. Licence issues have led the country’s national airline to lose out to what some report as 1,000 flights to and from the UK annually. It is likely that Virgin Atlantic is eyeing to take as much of this pie as it can. 

PIA is hopeful that it will fully restore its European operations by early 2023, however, it remains to be seen whether it will be able to operate at the same scale prior to the licence scandal and Covid-19.  

Commenting on the development, Virgin Atlantic’s Head of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia Liezl Gericke stated that the decision to double down was a testament to the success that the airline had found in its Pakistan operations in terms of brand equity as load factors in September rose to 90 per cent between Pakistan and the UK. 

Virgin Atlantic is a British airline that began its Pakistan operations in 2020 with its maiden flight between Mancheter to Islamabad. It was the second British airline to commence operations in Pakistan after British Airways returned to the country after a decade, in 2019

 

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Daniyal Ahmad
The author is a member of the staff, and covers the automobile sector as a sector analyst. He can be reached at [email protected]

21 COMMENTS

  1. Ghulam Sarwar paved the way for other lines to capture PIA routes by false and untrue statements on behalf of his master for throwing away PIA to their associate by all means: Badluck to have such notorious persons in our politics who defame the nation for ulterior moves.

  2. Ghulam Sarwar single handed destroyed PIA which was already in shambles. Sarwar thought he was going to shame the pmln by publically by announcing the pia fake licence, but it back fired drastically.

  3. Karachi was an International Hub for all airlines in Pakistan, and as population wise a business hub too for all businessmen from around the Globe. An intentional plan from Punjab Regime never want Karachi to become an international Hub and they created conspiracies against the biggest city of Pakistan. That’s why this Punjab Regime motivated many international airlines diverted to operate from Lahore and Islamabad.
    But even all of the conspiracies, Punjab Regime can’t bring Arabian Sea from Karachi to Lahore hahaha.

    • So you mean to say that terrorists MQM and PP robber barons were installed by the ‘Punjab’ regime as a conspiracy against Karachi and Sindh at large? Look at your own background instead of cussing Punjab which has become a norm to hide your own failures.

    • it is foolish and unwise to bring conspiracy theories on division on an international platform. whether karachi, lahore, Islamabad, balochistan, or Kpk or whereever the whole country is one. Think before you post.

    • You are doing the same thing that Mr Ghulam Sarwar did. Saying something that does not help anyone rather deleterious to Pakistan.
      Lack of development in Pakistan is due to corruption, irrespective of races. Corruption of minds. Corruption in education, law and order and at religious platforms is the seedling for all that is going around us.

  4. IT IS SAD THAT PIA IS NO LONGER FLYING TO EUROPE AND ALL LUCRATIVE ROUTES ARE NOW BEEN TAKEN OVER BY VIRGIN AIRLINES.IT IS ABOUT TIME A SERIOUS CRIMINAL CASE IS INITIATED AGAINST THE X-FEDERAL AVIATION MINISTER GHULAM SARWAR KHAN OF PTI WHO SINGLE HANDEDLY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS FIASCO AFTER HIS SHADY DEROGATORY DISGUSTING BELOW THE BELT SPEECH AGAINST PILOTS WHICH ACTUALLY PROVED NOTHING WORTHY OR TRUE …!!!

  5. It is heartening to see VS take the initiative and increase flights further into ISB and LHE despite the volatile situation with the PKR. Their on board product is overall very good and Lahore bound passengers in particular appreciate the convenience of the nonstop flight.

    Gerry’s group who represent VS in PAK should seriously make a business case for them to look into LHR-KHI 3 weekly from Summer 2023 season or even earlier as they will get high demand plus yields by offering the nonstop service. The p2p market between Karachi and London was 110,000 round trip passengers in 2019.

  6. What is the saddest part is that PIA was the first Airline to take to the skies after the Covid shut down. We were flying from Australia to South America to bring back stranded Pakistanis.
    This huge malicious scam destroyed the aviation of Pakistan like never before.
    The fact is that only 5 percent of the pilots named had suspicious written exam which had nothing to do with their flying skills.
    The rest of the 95 percent were anyways falsely accused for a hidden agenda and were later exonerated.
    This has been called by IFALPA,(INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF AIRLINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION), as the Biggest Blunder in Aviation History.

    • till this date not even a single pilot case has been proven so far. PIA loosing billions if dollars per year and no one realizes this. there should be massive enquiry conducted cause it caused country a big financial loss. Mr Sarwar and Mr Hamdani are the definite and prime suspects for all this.

      • PIA had it coming for a long long time, the lack of investment in its in flight services, crew (including Pilots), fleet etc was evident.
        As a Pakistani living oversees and wanting to fly to Pakistan, PIA was never my preference, the only option was to fly one of the Middle Eastern airlines, which were awesome, but added so much time to the overall journey.
        Virgin is awesome and Pakistan should be grateful that a modern prestige airline is flying there and in doing so, providing a superb service.

        gone are the days now where your in flight entertainment, AC, dont work and you can enjoy your 8 hours travelling to Pakistan.

        For me, this is all down to inability of Execs at PIA to manage operations. so Kudos to Virgin

  7. Birmingham International BHX – needs Virgin for long haul inc Jamaica USA Pakistan India and more – true needs Lahore from Birmingham direct

  8. I am very said that due to mr sarwar pia was banned I am 60 year old and travel many times with pia and we had flights at very cheap rates from Bhx man lhr leeds now we pay double the price and it takes at least 12 hours if not direct dead bodies were free with pia so so said know

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