Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan declared on Friday the government’s decision to partially restore domestic flight operations at the country’s five major airports, including Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Quetta, and Peshawar, from May 16 (Saturday), which had been suspended for nearly 56 days due to the novel coronavirus.
“After a thorough discussion at the forum of National Command and Operation Centre with all concerned especially provincial chief executives, we have taken a unanimous decision to restore the domestic flight operations that were in suspension since March 21, 2020,” the minister made a formal announcement in a video message.
We are now going to start the limited flight operations from tomorrow (Saturday) to facilitate the public,” he said, adding Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Serene Air would operate flights around the five major cities.
Initially, Sarwar said that approximately 20% of total pre-coronavirus flights will be conducted under certain Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), including screening of each thermal-powered passenger, ensuring face masks and gloves are worn.
“The planes will fly with 50 percent seat occupancy to maintain the required social distance among passengers during the travel.”
Meanwhile, in a news release, the Aviation Division said the decision to restore domestic flights was made in view of the difficulties passengers face while traveling between major cities.
“Initially, the PIA and Serene Air will operate the domestic flights, for which the Aviation Division has prepared very strict SOPS, ensuring disinfection, social distancing, and safety for both the airline’s crew and passengers.”
Under the SOPs, the Aviation Division said it will be mandatory for flight operations to clean the aircraft prior to passenger boarding, ensure at least one empty seat space between passengers, wear face masks and use hand sanitizer. However, during the domestic flights no food and beverages will be permitted.
In coping with any safety emergency during flights, the airlines will be expected to retain emergency Personal Protection Equipment in every aircraft.
Passengers must fill out a health statement form prior to boarding the aircraft, containing passenger identity, brief travel history over the past two weeks, current state of health and an undertaking to comply with the SOPs.