Pakistani expats angry over closure of flight of UAE to Peshawar
ABU DHABI // Pakistani expatriates have expressed their anger that regular flights from the UAE to the city of Peshawar have been halted.
Pakistan International Airline used to operate four return flights a week – two from Dubai and two from Abu Dhabi.
The airline stopped the service to Bacha Khan International Airport earlier this year, saying the route was making a loss.
Peshawar is the main urban centre in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where many Pashtun people live. A majority of Pakistani expatriates in the UAE are from this community.
Now, travellers must fly to Islamabad, which is at least three or four hours drive away from Peshawar.
Emirates airline and Etihad Airways operate a limited number of flights a week, but Pakistanis on low wages are unable to afford the fares on these airlines.
A group of Pakistan community representatives presented a letter to Asif Durrani, the country’s ambassador to the UAE, to demand PIA restart the service.
“Most of the expatriates hailing from Khyber Pakhtunkhwah are blue-collared workers who cannot afford expensive air tickets,” said Qayum Shah, 55, a Dubai-based businessman from the Pashtun community.
Mr Shah has been living in this country for more than two decades and says this is the first time he can recall a flight service being cancelled.
“The PIA officials are not realising the problems the Pashtun community is facing due to this unreasonable closure.
“We cannot understand how our own national airline can be so insensitive towards its own people,” he said.
Mr Shah, who owns a cargo company, said his business had also suffered because of the closure of the Peshawar flights.
“There are many people who always want to send something back home. They cannot do so any more because we have no other affordable alternatives available,” he said.
Karim Afridi, 50, who runs a business in Mussaffah, Abu Dhabi, said: “We constitute around 70 per cent of a 1.2 million Pakistani community in the UAE. This means huge traffic towards Peshawar. It was never easy to get PIA tickets.
“It was always fully booked. How can PIA suddenly say that this route is making losses?”
Zafaryab Khan, 35, who lives in Abu Dhabi, said it was extremely expensive for travellers to take public transport from Islamabad to their home villages.
“It costs more than 10,000 Pakistani rupees (Dh365) to travel via taxi from their tribal villages as far as Waziristan to Islamabad. How can a person who earns just Dh800 a month afford it?” he said.
Mr Durrani said he too was concerned about the closure of the route.
“I fully sympathise with the demands of our community because closure of PIA flights to Peshawar is causing many difficulties to the people of the area,” Mr Durrani said.
“Approximately 800,000 people travel to Peshawar every year and one fails to understand how such a lucrative sector can be abandoned by PIA without offering a plausible explanation.
“I hope the PIA manager would listen to the grievances of the community and resume these flights without further delay.”
Syed Ishaq Hussain, PIA regional manager for the Middle East, said the airline was facing financial challenges and had to cut some routes because of costs.
“There is no hangar available at Peshawar airport so the aircraft, after reaching Peshawar, had to go to Karachi or Lahore to park, which was adding costs to the fuel charges,” he said.
“The authorities took this decision after taking into account the losses that PIA was occurring in its UAE-Peshawar flights.”
Published: December 4, 2014 04:00 AM