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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.

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Comments (35)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Anna says:

    What are the prices. Tourism looks good there

  • Zed says:

    Sitting on a few air miles and have family in Islamabad, will definitely be looking at this option. Great opportunity for VA!

  • BSI1978 says:

    This is the sort of approach, and thinking Virgin will need to adopt if they are seriously going to survive long term. Particularly noting the current state of play with the US.

    Will be interesting to see if there are any other new routes being introduced idc, one would assume so.

    • ChrisW says:

      Agreed. As an entirely longhaul airline, Even ignoring all their destinations that won’t allow British travellers entry, it will be interesting to see if they can convince people to fly longhaul this winter.

      8+ hours wearing a mask, potentially being stuck a very long way from home if something goes wrong, potentially no social distancing on the plane. Doesn’t make you really yearn to book.

      I could see flights to ‘safe’ Caribbean islands working if they extend their covid insurance to full independent-backed travel insurance (ie we will get you home even if something goes wrong). If the UK has a second lockdown this winter due to a big second wave it might suddenly seem very attractive to escape to a small Caribbean island that has lower rates and a more controlled environment (ie tests on arrival).

      If Virgin had a difficult summer this year, they are going to have a horrendous winter.

      • John says:

        If cases in the UK rise enough that there is a second lockdown then all these “escapees” are just going to be spreading the virus around the Caribbean again. Unless there is testing before departure and any positive cases are immediately taken home to self-isolate, then test on arrival, isolate for 3 days and test again.

        • ChrisW says:

          Small islands with all inclusive secluded resorts should be able to control this with enough planning and motivation to save their tourism industry. Get tested on arrival, isolate with room service in your hotel while you wait for the results.

          The biggest thing that would stop me booking a longhaul holiday this winter is the fear I won’t be able to easily get home. You don’t want to get stranded on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere if the airport shuts down because of an outbreak

          • Andrew says:

            What’s the difference between a small island and a cruise ship?

          • Anna says:

            Not very much, and there are cases of people testing negative on arrival to islands then positive 5 – 14 days later so this is a risky option.

          • Alex Sm says:

            We need to get a herd immunity ASAP, either through vaccination, or through gradual continuous exposure to this virus. Otherwise, we will be embraced by stress pandemic eventually

          • John says:

            More “outdoors” on an island?

          • Johnny Tabasco says:

            Waiting for test results in a hotel room is not a holiday.

  • Catalan says:

    A refreshing and original approach taken by Virgin Atlantic. Good to see them spread the risk instead of putting all their eggs into one transatlantic basket. Best of luck to them.

  • Ali M says:

    Soooo glad about this.
    The non stop option will push so many people away from the national airline …
    UAE airlines are great but the stop over and now the covid stopover can be painful with young children.
    I have a feeling this would really work for them
    They should do Manchester – Lahore too (just in case someone is reading)

  • Andrew says:

    Virgin can capitalise on connections from the US via London to Pakistan with this route. EK and QR don’t have the same range of destinations in the US that Virgin and Delta do and the journey split is 12hr/4hr rather than 6h/9hr via London.

    • Ali M says:

      Didn’t even think of this.
      There will be a flood of people booking these routes I tell you

  • J says:

    BA fares to Islamabad are consistently high because of the lack of competition. I wonder if BA will now put on a load of extra flights as a spoiler to try squeeze VS out.

  • Novice says:

    A good move… I have friends of Pakistani descent and I know that a lot of family go back there even those who have been born here are expected to go back to the country.

    Apparently, there’s a lot of great places for tourists and my friends swear it’s cleaner than India. The only problem that has put me off so far is the reputation of the country on security issues. But hopefully they can get better with the cricketer PM.

    • Oh! Matron! says:

      I was so happy to see the Islamabad flights: Tourism is increasing, primarily for the Hindu Kush area (K2 Base camp). K2 base camp is a much quieter trek compared to Everest Base camp, and the view infinitely more spectacular. I’ve been planning a trip for a couple of years, and now how choice to Islamabad 🙂

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