ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has for the first time in history been granted the permission to operate direct flights to the US, without having to stop for a security clearance, to bring back thousands of Pakistani citizens who are stranded in the United States due to the covid restrictions in place.
The US Department of Transportation in a statement allowed the PIA to operate 12 flights in a month, the airline's spokesman Abdullah Hafeez confirmed Dawn on Thursday.
Previously, the flag carrier's flights had to pass through security checks at airports in Europe and Britain before entering the United States - owing to the latter's security regulations. This is the first time that it has been allowed to enter the US directly.
PIA Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Malik had last week written to the US Transport Department regarding the matter.
Besides bringing back citizens, the PIA flights would also transport bodies of those who died away from home free of charge.
The PIA spokesperson hailed the permission as a reflection of the country's improved security situation, the government's policies and the safety and security measures undertaken by the flag carrier.
On April 27, The Express Tribune learned that the PIA had worked out an extraordinary special flights operation to bring back 20,000 stranded Pakistanis from around the world within a fortnight.
Under its special mission, the sources said, the national flag carrier would operate 103 flights to repatriate the stranded Pakistanis from the UK, UAE, France, Germany, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Muscat, Malaysia and Oslo by May 9.