ISLAMABAD: British airline Virgin Atlantic commenced its operations in Pakistan on Friday, becoming the latest international airline to start serving passengers in the country. The first flight arrived in Islamabad earlier today and was received on the tarmac by Prime Minister’s Special Assistant for Overseas Pakistanis Zulfikar Bukhari and British High Commissioner Christian Turner.

Speaking on the occasion, Bukhari said the arrival of international carriers to Pakistan will boost trade and tourism and will also help in enhancing trade ties between Pakistan and the United Kingdom. “After British Airways, Virgin Atlantic is the second-largest airline in the UK to launch a series of flights to Pakistan,” said the prime minister’s aide.

The PCAA granted approval to Virgin Atlantic to start its flight operation in response to its request made on Dec 2. Virgin Atlantic is scheduled to start its flight operations for Islamabad and Lahore. The airliner will use the Airbus A-332 aircraft to continue a weekly eight-flight operation to the two cities.

According to the schedule approved by the PCAA, the first passenger flight VS365 will take off from London on Dec 13 and land at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport on Dec 14 in the morning.

The airline will operate eight weekly flights to Pakistan. The airline had reportedly sought permission to operate flights from Manchester and London. Earlier in December, the airline was granted permission to operate to and from Pakistan. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approved the airlines’ cargo and passenger flight operations and granted permission for passenger flights.

Virgin Atlantic had announced three routes to Pakistan from the UK ie London-Lahore, London-Islamabad, and Manchester-Islamabad.

Alongside passenger flights, the airline also announced cargo service to facilitate companies intending to export and import goods between Pakistan and markets of the UK and the US.

Virgin Atlantic restarted flying passengers on July 20, 2020 after a three-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic and “is currently operating flights to New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Barbados, and Miami”, the statement said.