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‘Vital link’ to Pakistan from airport may go if operator decides to axe direct flights
Pakistan International Airlines could be on the verge of pulling out of Leeds Bradford Airport – leaving the area without any direct flights to the sub- continent.
The airline, which is reported to have suffered from financial problems and scandals in recent years, is considering suspending its flights from LBIA to Islamabad after May 15.
The shock news comes less than three years after the area previously faced losing the important long haul connection. The crisis in 2011 was averted after two weeks of intensive negotiations between PIA, airport chiefs and Bradford’s then Lord Mayor Naveeda Ikram.
The airline’s flights from Leeds Bradford could be suspended within weeks. The threat to the twice-weekly service is already hitting passengers who are being told they cannot book flights from Leeds Bradford to Islamabad after May 15 because the route may be suspended.
No-one was available for comment at the airline, but a Leeds Bradford Airport spokesman said: “We are aware of this. It is very disappointing news and we are working with PIA regarding this matter.”
PIA launched the flights in 2008 to replace a short-lived Shaheen Air International service which was axed due to problems with plane availability.
The airline’s decision to fly out of Leeds Bradford was hailed as a “major achievement for the airport” by LBIA commercial director Tony Hallwood.
He also described the airline’s route as a “vital international link,” and said there was a significant demand for the flights. If the route is axed, passengers from Yorkshire will have to travel to Manchester, Birmingham, or London Heathrow for flights to Pakistan.
In recent years reports of financial problems at PIA have appeared in the international press. The airline has also been stricken by a number of scandals. Last year pilot Irfan Faiz was jailed after admitting being ‘impaired by drink’ in the cockpit of a plane at LBIA, and in a separate incident air steward Syed Shah was sent to prison for attempting to smuggle heroin into the UK through Leeds Bradford.