Pakistanis stranded abroad are accusing Pakistan International Airline for overcharging on repatriation flights, as desperate citizens have to arrange thousands of dollars for a one-way ticket back to Pakistan.
The increased flight costs are adding financial stress to travelers who are desperate to leave countries amid closed borders and strict lockdowns due to the coronavirus.
Under the evacuation plan approved by the government, phased repatriation are being carried out where priority is be given to those held up in transit. Second priority is being given to those whose visas are near to expiry. While those Pakistanis who are working or studying overseas are last on the priority list.
While, Pakistan’s diplomatic offices in foreign countries are instructed to help the Pakistanis abroad by caring for food, medicines, and accommodation and facilitating extension of their visas.
Pakistan international Airline (PIA) is flying special flights to Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Tashkent, Baku, Baghdad, London and Toronto.
However, PIA has been charging sky high prices for bringing back stranded Pakistanis in this need of the hour. As per a press release from Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and HR, PIA has set ticket price of Rs. 48,000 from UAE to Islamabad one way. The Two Way Return ticket price for the same route is around Rs. 50,000 in normal days. However, PIA is charging exorbitant rates from fellow Pakistanis just for one-way flight.
This is not the case only on one route. Whatever route PIA is taking, it is charging excessive prices. For Toronto to Pakistan Flight route, PIA is charging Rs. 267,000 for one way. The Two-way return ticket on same route is roughly the half price in normal days.
For UK flights, PIA is asking stranded travelers Rs. 129,000 to bring them back to Pakistan. In normal days, the flight ticket is roughly Rs.85,000 for two way.
Many Pakistani Travelers, whom The Mint PK contacted, had unpleasant views for the Airline. Atif Saleem, an IT Entrepreneur was in Canada on a business visit when flight restrictions were implemented. Having no alternate and Visa expiry very near, he bought PIA ticket at a high price of Rs. 350,000. However, according to him, the Experience was below par.
Atif narrates his ordeal:
“I had never traveled abroad via PIA and after experiencing foreign airlines services, PIA service took us to write a written complain. We were crammed into each other without any social distance, increasing the Risks for us. The rule of placing passengers with one vacant seat between them was not followed. On complaint, We were told that this is the only solution, take it or leave it”.
PIA new ticket prices
After initial complains were raised up to Prime Minister, PIA has slightly decreased its Ticket Prices. Karachi to Toronto tickets which were previously being sold for sky high price of Rs. 350,000, are now being priced at Rs. 267,000. The revised prices are mentioned below:
Increased Complaints from Customers
The complains against PIA are on the rise amid pandemic situation. There are some travelers who are stranded abroad despite having previously purchased tickets of PIA. They are now being asked to buy new tickets at higher prices. Moreover, many stranded Pakistanis are unable to contact Embassies or PIA offices to book their tickets. Pakistanis have high hope from their national carrier.
Although PIA hasn’t officially commented on the complaints, however, as per the airline officials, PIA’s ticket price reflects the cost of operation, with high prices often due to the fact that at least one way flight of PIA involves flying a plane with no or limited passengers. The prices the airline is charging is purely a commercial decisions that takes into account the costs associated with operating non-standard flights along with the risk each airline is assuming in arranging these flights.