A decision by Pakistan International Airlines to ground its ATR planes in the wake of the December 7 air crash near Havelian has left many passengers stranded in the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) region.
After the incident, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced it would hold shakedown tests of the aircraft and subsequently the national airline decided to ground all the 10 ATRs in its fleet.
“There is a complete uncertainty as to when the PIA operation to G-B will resume,” said Rizwan, a passenger whose seats for a Gilgit-Islamabad flight were confirmed on Wednesday but later cancelled due to absence of flights.
“Now we have been given another date by PIA but we don’t know if we will be able to fly,” Rizwan, who is accompanied by his family, told.
Waqas Khawar, another resident of Gilgit, left Islamabad for Gilgit by road on Tuesday night as he had to appear in a test for a job on Wednesday. “I couldn’t afford to miss the test so I decided to take the land route by Karakoram Highway instead of waiting,” he said.
Earlier in a press statement, PIA said the ‘temporary suspension’ of ATR operation will affect the airline’s flights to smaller airports like Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur, Mohenjo-Daro, Zhob, Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Chitral and Gilgit.
Meanwhile, the G-B government – in a bid to facilitate passengers – has announced a plan to arrange C-130 flights till the resumption of ATR service to the region.
“Till the ATR flights are restored, we have decided to start C-130 flights to Gilgit to facilitate passengers. And the flights will be started soon,” the G-B’s official spokesman Faizullah Faraq told.
PIA operates a flight to northern Gilgit and Skardu towns almost every day. The region is otherwise connected through a tedious journey of about 15 to 20 hours by public transport.