UAE airlines are scaling back flights to Pakistan as that country continues to limit the number of inbound international passengers. The Pakistani government began to cap arrival numbers in May in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19. With the arrival caps now extended into mid-June, airlines are continuing to cancel their flights into Pakistan.
Pakistan limits arrivals in an attempt to curb COVID-19
On May 1, Pakistan’s National Command and Operation Centre ordered an 80% reduction in international inbound arrivals. At the same time, Pakistan also put a range of testing and quarantine protocols in place. That order was valid until May 20. Major UAE airlines, including Etihad and Emirates, quickly moved to cancel flights. In total, the number of international flights arriving into Pakistan dropped from 590 to 123 a week.
The Pakistani government later altered the arrivals cap to 50% of normal international arrivals. But it also extended the order until June 15. Not helping matters for the Gulf-based airlines, the UAE banned entry to travelers from Pakistan in mid-May. That ban remains in place until June 30.
COVID-19 remains an ongoing concern in Pakistan. The National Command and Operation Centre reported 1,843 new COVID-19 cases and 80 deaths on Wednesday. The vaccination rollout, while underway, has been sluggish.
Pakistan an important market for Gulf airlines
Pakistan is an important market for Gulf-based airlines.
- Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has been flying to both Lahore and Islamabad.
- Doha-based Qatar Airways normally flies to Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, and Peshawar.
- Dubai-based juggernaut airline Emirates flies to Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Sialkot, and Peshawar.
- Bahrain-based Gulf Air normally flies to Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Sialkot, Multan,…