Islamabad: In a bid to boost tourism, Pakistan International Airline (PIA) has launched direct flights from the cultural capital of Lahore to scenic Skardu in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region.
PIA’s first direct flight landed at the Skardu Airport from Lahore on April 7. The flight took nearly one hour and 15 minutes from Allama Iqbal International Airport to Skardu Airport.
The aircraft’s reception was celebrated with a traditional water salute. The PK-8453 flight with 153 passengers received a warm welcome at the Skardu Airport which is surrounded by snowy peaks offering a glimpse of the natural wonders in the region.
Skardu Deputy Commissioner Karim Dad Ghughtai, PIA staff and other officials presented flowers to the passengers of the inaugural flight. A cake-cutting ceremony was also held at the Skardu Airport to celebrate the moment.
New travel corridor
The new flight route would open a new travel corridor for domestic and international tourists, officials said. The one-way trip on the Lahore-Skardu route would cost around Rs7,550 (US$49).
The two weekly flights on the new route would greatly help boost tourism in the region, said Gilgit-Baltistan tourism minister Raja Nasir Ali Khan as he vowed to take the local tourism sector to “new heights”.
PIA launched the new flight route connecting Punjab with northern areas of Pakistan just days after resuming flight operations to Swat – also known as the Switzerland of the East.
“The two direct flights from Lahore [to Skardu] have been launched in good time before Ramadan and tourism season while Karachi will be connected soon too” which would further improve accessibility to the country’s north, said National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) chairman Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari.
PIA restructuring plan
Meanwhile, the federal government has approved Rs457 billion worth restructuring plan for PIA to make the national flag carrier financially viable. Job cuts would also be part of the reformation plan and at least 25 per cent of the existing workforce or 3,500 PIA employees would lose jobs while the airline would also shut its non-profitable routes and share the international routes with other airlines.