Virgin Atlantic has announced that it will suspend flights between London and Pakistan. The carrier launched services to Islamabad and Lahore less than three years ago. The decision to end flights comes after the airline reviewed its entire network.
Virgin Atlantic started flying to Islamabad and Lahore from Heathrow in December 2020 when many of the carrier’s traditional markets in the United States and the Caribbean were shut or heavily restricted due to the pandemic. However, the airline has now decided to suspend its services. Flights to Lahore will end on May 1, and flights between London and Islamabad will stop on July 9.
The decision to pivot to Pakistan came at the same time that Pakistan’s flag carrier, PIA, was banned from operating flights to the UK and Europe due to a high-profile pilot qualification scandal. At the time, it was feared that at least 40% of Pakistani pilots held fake qualifications. PIA was forced to suspend flights to the UK and Europe in early 2020.
Virgin Atlantic’s decision to end its services to Pakistan comes as PIA is on the air safety list drawn up by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority and European regulators. However, there is speculation that the airline could be cleared to restart direct services from Pakistan to the UK and Europe later this year.
Virgin Atlantic has apologized for any inconvenience caused and thanked its customers, teams, partners, and authorities in Pakistan for their support over the past two years. The airline states that suspending services to Pakistan will ensure that its resources are used in the most optimal way to achieve operational resilience. The airline did not immediately comment on where those resources will be directed towards. The move comes just as Virgin Atlantic prepares to join airline alliance Skyteam on March 2.