BA flies back to Pakistan

2003-12-02 21:37

Islamabad - British Airways revealed on Tuesday a terror threat in 2001 against its Pakistani-bound flights had triggered a 27-month suspension which has just been lifted.

"After September 11 we had a specific terrorist threat to our flights to Islamabad," Steve Allen, BA's regional commercial manager, told reporters in Islamabad within hours of the arrival of the first London-Islamabad flight since September 12, 2001.

"A thorough review of security measures at Islamabad airport recently confirmed that levels of security now in place satisfy our requirements to allow us to resume flights."

Allen did not reveal details of the threat.

BA, which has operated flights to Pakistan since 1929, suspended the flights one day after the terror attacks by suicide plane hijackers in the United States.

BA's last security evaluation six months ago gave the all-clear for flights to Islamabad to resume. It will operate three flights a weeks between London and Islamabad.

A Boeing 777 left London's Heathrow airport on Monday and landed at Islamabad early on Tuesday carrying 250 passengers, including a delegation of UK tour operators and journalists.

The flights depart London on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and depart Islamabad on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

The only other airline to fly the popular route direct is Pakistan's national carrier PIA.

Allen said BA expects good business on the London to Islamabad route, which is popular with expatriate Pakistanis living in Britain and their relatives.

BA's commercial manager for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Paul Dhami, said the airline was convinced stability had returned to the region. It has been rocked by the US-led war in Afghanistan, a spate of terror attacks against Christians and Westerners in Pakistan, and near war with nuclear neighbour India.

"Our decision to relaunch our Islamabad flights was driven by a growing conviction that stability in the region has returned and that Pakistan meets the airline's stringent safety and security requirements," Dhami said in a statement.

The revived flights would "help pave the way for future growth in Pakistan's tourism and aviation industries," he added.