Domestic flights are slated to resume operations, starting May 16, from five major airports in the country, according to a notice from the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA), days after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a relaxation in the lockdown to contain the coronavirus.
In a video statement, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said 20% of the domestic flights would resume operations starting tomorrow (Saturday) following the final decision taken by the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Thursday.
The five major airports include Jinnah International Airport, Allama Iqbal International Airport, Islamabad International Airport (IIAP), Quetta International Airport, and Bacha Khan International Airport.
Sarwar said social distancing would be followed based on the seats in the airplane and capacity to fill 50% of the seats would be maintained. "Passengers will be provided the opportunity to travel safely," he added.
The move came "in view of the difficulties being faced by passengers in travelling between major cities in Pakistan", the PCAA said on Twitter.
The minister, it added, noted that the "Aviation Division has prepared very strict SOPs ensuring disinfection, social distancing and safety for the airline crew and passengers".
Apart from social distancing, other measures include "disinfection of the aircraft prior to boarding, at least one vacant seat between the passengers, compulsory wearing of masks and use of hand sanitizer". Furthermore, no food or beverages would be allowed.
Passengers would be required to fill health declaration forms before boarding the airplane and subjected to thermal scanning on entry and exit into and from a city. All luggage would be disinfected and no meet and greet would be allowed at the airport.
Drivers were advised to stay inside their respective vehicles in the parking lot.
A spokesperson for the PCAA said domestic flights would be operated by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and one private company. The national carrier's administration said tickets sales may start as early as the evening today.
However, sources informed that certain airlines have said they were not ready to resume domestic flight operations.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan extended its ban on the international flight operations until May 31.
"Remaining provisions as applicable to the suspension of Int flights reflected in previous orders remain unchanged," the PCAA said on Twitter.
The aviation regulatory authority had previously announced an extension in domestic flight operations till May 10.