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Virgin Atlantic launching flights to Lahore and Islamabad in Pakistan

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Virgin Atlantic has announced it is launching three new routes to Pakistan in December 2020.

Both Heathrow and Manchester will gain new flights to Islamabad whilst Heathrow will also see the introduction of a service to Lahore. Virgin Atlantic will be the only airline offering direct flights to Lahore from Heathrow.

The exact schedules and frequencies have not yet been announced. The new services will go on sale in September.

Virgin Atlantic has announced it is launching three new routes to Pakistan in December 2020.

Pakistan has seen an increase in flights from the UK in recent years, with British Airways returning to Islamabad last year after a ten year hiatus.

The route hasn’t been without its challenges, however. Pakistan International Airways was recently blocked from flying to EU and UK airspace after it was found that over 30% of its pilots held fraudulent licences.

It recently re-launched services to Birmingham, London and Manchester by wet leasing an aircraft from Hi-Fly. This meant that PIA did not have to use its own pilots or crew.

Virgin Atlantic has announced it is launching three new routes to Pakistan in December 2020

Whilst launching three routes at once to Pakistan may seem an aggressive move, there a few reasons why Virgin Atlantic may have decided to do so:

  • It genuinely thinks there is enough demand between the UK and Pakistan for three airlines to offer direct services in addition to connecting airlines such as Emirates. People of Pakistani descent make up the second largest ethnic minority population in the UK.
  • It thinks it can capitalise on PIA’s shaky reputation
  • It is attempting to diversify its route network away from the US, which is likely to remain closed to foreign nationals for some time
  • It believes there is enough cargo demand to make this route worthwhile and any passenger bookings are simply the icing on the cake

It is likely that Virgin Atlantic saw an opportunity based on a combination of these factors, and also has its fingers crossed. Let’s see how it goes.

Comments (35)

  • AJA says:

    Is it also an opportunity to protect slots at LHR, If VS can’t fly to the US, in case the 80/20 rules are reinstated?

  • Blenz101 says:

    US isn’t closed to foreign nationals. As a British passport holder I could fly from my home here in Dubai tomorrow if I wanted.

    • Lady London says:

      @Blenz : How would the visa thing work in that case? I had the impression existing ESTA’s have been cancelled?

      • Blenz101 says:

        I’ve not been in the U.K./EU/China etc. in the last 14 days which is the subject of the ban.

        The US is not closed to foreign nationals.

        ESTA doesn’t come into it.

        • Jonathan says:

          Visa waiver is suspended though so you need a valid reason + at least one trip to a US Embassy. To all intents & purposes they’re closed to foreign nationals.

          • Mikee says:

            Foreign Nationals are not subject to the US travel restrictions (Presidential Proclamation 9996) providing they have not been physically present within the countries listed on the following website in the past 14 days:

            https://uk.usembassy.gov/information-for-nonimmigrant-visa-applicants-following-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/

            You can check your ETSA validity here:
            https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/estaStatus

            Your ESTA remains valid if you are not subject to the travel restrictions. For a UK National, spending 14 days away from the UK in a country which is not covered by the US travel restrictions ie. Turkey would mean you could legitimately travel to the USA under your ESTA.

            Happy to be corrected by anyone who has tried this and been refused boarding/entry (I believe at least one HFP reader flew to Turkey in July and spent 14 days there before flying onto the US).

          • Declan Yates says:

            This is just so untrue. The visa waiver (VWP) is not suspended. The only change is that you cannot enter on the VWP if you have been in one of the restricted countries during the preceding 14 days (Schengen / UK / Ireland / China / Iran / Brazil). I, a British Passport holder with an ESTA entered the US from Mexico with no questions asked at my arrival airport in the US. Where does all your misinformation come from?

            • Mikee says:

              I’m planning the same Declan but probably going to spend my 14 days in Turkey before flying to Miami. Did you look at any other countries before deciding on Mexico? I was also looking at Caribbean but due to hurricane season, I thought I’d steer clear for the time being.

  • Harry T says:

    A wise move by VS as their survival and future prosperity likely hinges on diversification away from the US. I’d definitely consider flying from MAN to Pakistan.

  • The Savage Squirrel says:

    Hope it works for them. Plenty of natural year-round traffic between UK and Pakistan that is based more on family events than destination tourism, and you’d have to be certifiably insane to choose Pakistan airlines with their safety record and service if a direct alternative was available.

  • Peter North says:

    Good news, any of you ever flown PIA? Undoubtedly the worst airline I have ever had the dubious pleasure of flying.

  • MUHAMMAD ALI MEMON says:

    I am bewildered by the lack of direct flight to Karachi by BA and VS. It is a much bigger city with a huge passenger and cargo demand and the security risks aren’t too different to Lahore. Any one have any idea why this is?

    • Baji Nahid says:

      Because it has no profit value. You can fill bums on seats but you wont make a profit, pre covid there were 7 emirates daily flights at one point. Why would you want to fly to KHI where there is more competition when you can fly to Islamabad or Lahore where there is no to little /restricted competition. Virgin Atlantic will be the only direct flight to Lahore and BA/VS to Islamabad. Karachi fair enough wont have a direct flight but most of the pakistani originating passengers are based around Lahore and Islamabad. That is where the market is as stands.