Saudi Arabia announces a 72-hour deadline for iqama holders to return to region
Panic broke out among travelers after Saudi Arabia declared a 72-hour deadline for Iqama holders (residents) from 12 countries, including Pakistan, to return to Kingdom.
The decision was taken in the midst of global coronavirus pandemic concerns.
Following the announcement, itinerants crowded Pakistan International Airline offices in Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot and other parts of the region.
They also claimed that the airline would only issue tickets for two dates–March 16 and March 18–and would charge twice the price for the tickets.
“The PIA officials told us that they will only issue us tickets before March 18,” an iqama holder stuck in Lahore said. “They are not even accepting the return tickets we had brought from Saudi,” he said.
“I brought this tickets for 1,500 Riyals, but these people have said that I will have to purchase a ticket again for Rs96,000,” another person complained.
Travelers in Sialkot protested outside the office of the PIA and requested that the state take note of the situation. They ended their protest after they had been told by the airline that they would be getting tickets.
PIA Spokesperson Abdullah Khan, meanwhile, has said that the airline was trying to accommodate as many people as it could.
“Although the announcement was sudden, we have taken immediate action over it,” he said.
“We added three flights travelling to Saudi last night and have increased the number to six today (Friday) morning,” Khan said. “We have also mounted more planes on the route and have installed more than 2,200 seats in our planes,” he added.